Both houses of the Georgia Legislature approved a sweeping election integrity bill Thursday that requires voter ID for absentee ballots, limits drop-box collections and expands weekend voting. Gov. Brian Kemp immediately signed the legislation into law.
"There's no doubt there were many alarming issues with how the election was handled, and those problems really led to a crisis of confidence in the ballot box here in Georgia,” the governor said after signing the bill.
Democrats, including President Joe Biden, decried the measure as an effort at voter suppression while Republicans said it restored confidence in election integrity by ensuring those who vote do so lawfully.
The 95-page bill written by Republicans passed the House of Representatives in a 100-75 party-line vote and in the Senate by a 34-20 party-line vote. It followed a tight 2020 presidential contest in the state that saw Democrats win the presidency and the state's U.S. Senate seats.
Its signature provision required absentee voters to provide ID, replacing the signature-verifications used in 2020, and it prohibited the state from mailing out absentee ballot applications unsolicited as happened during the pandemic.
The law also:
- restricted ballot drop boxes to be located inside early voting locations, and to be unavailable in the last four days of an election;
- expanded weekend voting before general elections with required voting hours on two Saturdays statewide, and the option for counties to offer early voting on two Sundays;
- empowered the State Election Board to assume control of county election boards that it deemed need intervention;
- reduced the time span between elections and runoffs from nine weeks to four weeks.
The bill ignited debate across the state, with Democrats howling it would restrict access to voting.
"It is unbelievable that there are still some people trying to stop people from voting today. You are changing the rules, cutting the voting hours, and making it more difficult for people to vote," Democratic state Rep. Erica Thomas said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Too many people fought, bled and died for our right to vote."
Republicans countered that the 2020 election was conducted under rules that were too loose and undermined confidence in lawful voting.
"Our goal is to ensure that voters in Georgia have confidence in the elections process," said state Sen. Max Burns, according to the Journal-Constitution. "This is a solid step in the right direction to provide voter integrity in Georgia."
The legislation reverberated all the way to Washington, where Biden called it "un-American" and vowed to fight election reform efforts in GOP states while the conservative Heritage Action for America group hailed it as a necessary reform that ensures absentee ballots can't be abused.
"The Peach State is in better hands because of these election integrity reforms," the group tweeted in a congratulatory statement shortly after Kemp signed the bill.