The majority Georgia GOP Senate Caucus Tuesday released Senate Bill 241, an 18-point omnibus bill that aims to address what it calls a citizen “lack of faith and integrity” in the current election systems. This comes on the heals of four other senate bills that passed earlier this week addressing election reforms.
“We have heard these concerns voiced by many, and addressing these concerns has been at the forefront of our legislative efforts this year to promote the good of this state,” the GOP Senate Caucus said in a statement announcing the filing of the omnibus bill. “We have spent several hundred hours thoroughly researching and comparing practices across the entire United States, searching for solutions to restore the integrity of elections in Georgia. We encourage all citizens to practice their civic duty, and in return, it is our responsibility to ensure public confidence and trust in the system, ensuring our rights are protected.”
An omnibus bill is a single document that would pass or fail in a single vote that packages several measures together. Because of its size, omnibus bills limit opportunity for scrutiny and debate and critics consider such bills to be anti-democratic. There are already voices in opposition to any voting reform bills authored by Republicans. The Democracy Docket, a platform for progressive advocacy on voting rights and elections, calls SB 241 another “suppression bill” currently before the Georgia Assembly and quotes even the Secretary of State’s Office as saying “At the end of the day many of these bills are reactionary to a three month disinformation campaign that could have been prevented.”
State Senate Republicans, however, say these bills are to ensure open and honest practices in elections by addressing election oversight, voting processes and transparency. Republicans still hold a 34-22 majority in the Senate and a 103-76 majority in the House with one vacancy.
The 18 points addressed by SB 241 are:
- Require a copy of state-issued ID to accompany absentee ballot.
- Require absentee ballot requests be stated under oath.
- Eliminate no-excuse absentee ballots, permissible excuses to receive absentee ballots are: absent day of election, performing official acts or duties in connection with the primary, election, or runoff, having a physical disability or a caregiver of a disabled person, religious holiday, requirement to remain on duty in their place of employment the entire time the polls are open, active duty/military/overseas citizen, or 65+ years of age.
- Require courts to hear ballot tabulation process disputes within 2 business days of complaint being filed.
- Require delineation of nonofficial entities sending absentee ballot request forms (require increased font size, clear markings of nonofficial correspondence, etc).
- Require the Secretary of State to participate in multistate voter registration systems and use the organizations to cross-check registration information with other states that participate.
- Require the use of mobile ballot casting units be restricted to replace pre-existing brick-and-mortar voting facilities, and ensure that such units do not supplement current precincts, but solely replace.
- Require that the Secretary of State not move into any consent agreements without the consent of both chambers of the General Assembly.
- Removal of county election officials or entire boards of election for malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty, incompetence or inability to perform the duties of the office.
- Require voter I.D. with all absentee ballot applications not just those on the online portal.
- Prospectively prohibit the transmittal of absentee ballots without a prior request from the voter.
- Only voters for whom extended hours are intended should be allowed to vote at the precinct during the extended hours. Poll hours may be extended only by order of a judge of the superior court of the county where the precinct is located upon good cause being shown.
- Prevent ballot harvesting by prohibiting any third party from observing an elector fill out an absentee ballot.
- Make emergency rules of State Boards subject to the veto of a majority of either the Senate Judiciary Committee or the House Judiciary Committee.
- Create a hotline run by the Attorney General to report voter intimidation and illegal election activities.
- Require all counties to report their total number of absentee, in-person and provisional ballots after the close of the polls.
- Require continuous reporting of ballots received.
- Secretary of State can inspect and audit the information contained in the absentee ballot envelopes at any time during the 24 month retention period; can be conducted state wide or countywide, and can be full audit or statistically significant.