Republicans in Georgia passed a major law to restrict voting access across the state, introducing more stringent voter identification requirements for absentee ballots, limiting drop boxes and increasing the Legislature’s power over elections. These reforms make Georgia the first state to alter its election system since the 2020 presidential election.
The bill introduces an array of new restrictions, including limiting drop boxes, taking power from the Secretary of State, imposing new oversight of county election boards, restricting who can vote with provisional ballots and criminalizing the act of offering food or water to voters in lines. The law also requires runoff elections to be held four weeks after the initial vote, in lieu of the current nine weeks.
The law passed the Georgia House on a 100-to-75 vote, and was later approved by the Senate on a 34-to-20 vote, according to the Washington Post. The bill was finalized with the signature of Governor Brian Kemp, another Republican.
“We quickly began working with the House and Senate on further reforms to make it easier to vote and harder to cheat,” Kemp said in the New York Times. “The bill I signed into law does just that.”
Democrats have criticized these reforms, however, arguing that they make voting harder for the state’s large Black population, which played a key role in President Biden’s victory as well as the success of Senators Raphael Warnock and John Ossoff in January.
The reforms directly target Black neighborhoods in Georgia’s cities where long voting lines are common. In 2018, citizens in predominantly Black neighborhoods had to wait hours to cast their votes, and many were removed from the voting rolls prior to the elections, according to the New York Times. The bill also increases the Legislature’s power over elections, which may interfere with voting in predominantly Democratic and Black counties like Fulton and Gwinnett.
“Rather than grappling with whether their ideology is causing them to fail, they are instead relying on what has worked in the past,” Stacey Abrams, voting rights activist and former minority leader, told the New York Times. “Instead of winning new voters, you rig the system against their participation, and you steal the right to vote.”
President Biden also expressed his distaste for Georgia’s reforms. “Instead of celebrating the rights of all Georgians to vote or winning campaigns on the merits of their ideas, Republicans in the state instead rushed through an un-American law to deny people the right to vote,’’ Biden said, according to USA Today. “This law, like so many others being pursued by Republicans in statehouses across the country is a blatant attack on the Constitution and good conscience.”
Harvard-Westlake (HW) student, Davis Marks ‘24, expressed his view on the bill.
“I’m all for legitimate ways of ensuring all votes are authentic, but this law is purely partisan voter restriction,” Marks said. “Regardless of political affiliation, restricting voters is upsetting, and the new policies created by this law… are just plain wrong. Not only is it shameful and devastating to our democracy, but it also sets a dangerous precedent for lawmakers choosing the voters, not the voters choosing the lawmakers.”