Over the last year of voting in a pandemic, counties were hard-pressed to find the money required to provide access to voting that could safely accommodate their communities. Many were able to take advantage of grant money but some simply toughed it out. However, the bills currently being discussed in the Georgia General Assembly will push these counties into a very difficult place. One proposed bill will strip County Board of Elections the ability to apply for and receive grant money. The legislators, Rep. Flemming in particular, wish to make access to voting as difficult as possible. Whether money is taken away from counties by disallowing legitimate funding sources or by creating situations that require an increase in hours of voting administration personnel, there will be a burden – both financial and human. We should also point out that we are not finished with the pandemic. The costs inherent in running an election during a pandemic will not simply disappear.
The bills would:
● require voters to submit a photocopy of an ID or other documentation to request an
absentee ballot (SB 67 & HB 531);
● ban or limit the use of secure ballot drop boxes (HB 531 & SB 68);
● limit the advance voting schedule (HB 531);
● ban supplemental election funding (HB 531);
● end automatic voter registration (AVR) at the Department of Driver Services (SB 69);
● trigger costly litigation (HB 531, SB 67, etc).
Fair Fight estimates that “The key policy proposals listed above could cost Georgia over $57million in the next election cycle.”
We take issue with these anti-voting bills for many reasons of course, voting rights are sacred in a democracy, but there is the hypocritical aspect to this that cannot be ignored. Those proposing these bills scream loudly when money is being spent to improve the lives of citizens, but are glad to run up deficits when it benefits them and the people to whom they are loyal. The budget proposal that’s been sent to the senate is struggling to pay for the promises made in the last election (due to a tax cut given to the wealthiest of Georgians ). The state government is being run on the backs of state employees (where there are over 1,000 unfilled jobs) and teachers, and yet, they are proposing these new laws that are unfunded mandates to the counties. Where will this money be found? Your county tax bill could be the source for this expensive and unnecessary show. Be sure your county commissioners and board of elections see this estimate of costs. Fiscal notes, issued from the office of planning and budget that estimate the cost of proposed bills, have not yet been released.
You can watch more of the hearing on the so-called “election integrity” legislation beginning at 8am on Tuesday, February 23rd. Please consider calling and writing the members of the committee with this list provided by The Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda
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