Georgia House approves new election rules that could impact 2024 presidential contest

Mar 28, 2024, 8:29 PM

ATLANTA (AP) — The Georgia House of Representatives on Thursday approved new rules for challenging voters and qualifying for the state’s presidential ballot that could impact the 2024 presidential race in the battleground state.

The House passed Senate Bill 189 by a vote of 101 to 73. It now goes to the state Senate for consideration. Republicans in Georgia have repeatedly floated election changes in the wake of false claims by former President Donald Trump and other Republicans that he lost Georgia’s 16 electoral votes in 2020 because of fraud.

SB 189 would grant access to Georgia’s ballot to any political party that has qualified for the presidential ballot in at least 20 states or territories. The change could be a boost to independent candidates such as Robert F. Kennedy Jr., whose campaign has spooked Democrats worried it could draw support away from President Joe Biden.

The bill also spells out what constitutes “probable cause” for upholding challenges to voter eligibility. Probable cause would exist if someone is dead, has voted or registered to vote in a different jurisdiction, has registered for a homestead exemption on their property taxes in a different jurisdiction or is registered at a nonresidential address.

Democrats slammed the provision, saying it would enable more baseless attacks on voters that would overwhelm election administrators and disenfranchise people.

Rep. Saira Draper of Atlanta said the provision was based on “lies and fearmongering.”

“You know the policy of not negotiating with terrorists,” she said. “I wish we had a policy of not making laws to placate conspiracy theorists.”

Democrat Ruwa Romman said the bill and others like it chip away at confidence in the U.S. election system, a bedrock of its democracy.

“We have a responsibility to push back on lies, not turn them into legislation,” she said.

Republican Rep. Victor Anderson defended the voter challenge section, pointing to a provision deeming the appearance of someone’s name on the U.S. Postal Service’s national change of address list insufficient on its own to sustain a challenge. He also noted a provision postponing challenges that occur within 45 days of an election.

“Colleagues, I contend that our bill actually makes the process of challenging more difficult,” he said.

Republican Rep. John LaHood said the bill increases confidence in elections.

“What this bill does is ensure that your legal vote does matter,” he said.

The bill also would require counties to report the results of all absentee ballots by an hour after polls close and let counties use paper ballots in elections where fewer than 5,000 people are registered, though that change would not take effect until 2025.

The measure also says that beginning July 1, 2026, the state could no longer use a kind of barcode, called a QR code, to count ballots created on the state ballot marking devices. That is how votes are counted now, but opponents say voters don’t trust QR codes because they can’t read them. Instead, the bill says ballots must be read using the text, or human readable marks like filled-in bubbles, made by the machines.

State lawmakers already have sent bills to the governor that would require audits of more than one statewide election, add an additional security feature on ballots, restrict who can serve as poll workers to U.S. citizens and allow a reduced number of voting machines.

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Georgia House approves new election rules that could impact 2024 presidential contest