Georgia Governor Signs Sweeping Overhaul of State Elections

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed an overhaul of election laws Thursday shortly after it cleared the state legislature -- and less than three months after Georgia voters gave Democrats control of the U.S. Senate.

Justified as restoring “integrity” after unfounded allegations of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election, the new law has been described as an act of voter suppression by opponents. The measure requires identification for mail-in absentee voting for the first time, shortens the time for runoffs from nine weeks to four, cuts the window for requesting mail ballots and restricts the use of ballot drop boxes that eased voting during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Georgia Governor Signs Sweeping Overhaul of State Elections

On Jan. 5, high turnout among Black voters drove the twin victories of Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, stripping the Senate from Republican hands.

The measure also strips the top election official, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, of his role as chairman of the elections board. Raffensperger had eased voting rules in the pandemic and resisted former President Donald Trump’s unfounded claims of a stolen election. The legislature will now choose the elections board chairman.

Introduced this week, the bill passed both chambers of the legislature within days. It doesn’t include some of the most controversial proposals Republican lawmakers initially proposed: a requirement that many voters provide a photocopy of their driver’s license when requesting a mail ballot, and a measure that would’ve ended no-excuse absentee voting.

The law also does not cut in half Sunday voting -- used heavily by Black voters who attend church -- as Republicans initially had proposed. In fact, it expands weekend early balloting, including by letting counties approve Sunday voting.

The measure is certain to be challenged in court: In a tweet after it passed, Democratic election attorney Marc Elias threatened “an immediate lawsuit. I promise.”

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