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A new election law battle is brewing in Georgia, this time over voter challenges

  • Georgia Republican lawmakers have passed a bill that would allow voters to be removed from the voter rolls through a “voter eligibility challenge.”
  • Supporters of the bill say the challenges will help prevent fraud, while opponents say the bill “could harm legitimate voters.”
  • The bill awaits Governor Brian Kemp’s signature or veto.

ATLANTA (AP) – Georgia has been rocked by a fierce battle over election laws since Democrat Stacey Abrams narrowly lost to Republican Brian Kemp in the 2018 gubernatorial race.

Statewide brawls burst into the national consciousness in 2021. At the time, Republicans pushed through sweeping legislation imposing new restrictions on voters, under pressure from Republican activists who promoted Donald Trump’s false claims that he lost the 2020 election because of widespread fraud. I broke through.

Georgia State Legislature sends letter to Larry David accusing him of “suppressing interest in state election laws”

With months left until a likely rematch between President Trump and Joe Biden, Georgia is once again tinkering with state election law. Just last week, Republican lawmakers passed a new bill that would allow voters to be removed from the voter rolls through challenges to their eligibility. It now awaits Kemp’s signature or veto.

Georgia has been in a fierce battle over state election laws ever since Democrat Stacey Abrams lost to Republican Brian Kemp in the 2018 gubernatorial election. (St. Petersburg)

Supporters say such challenges prevent fraud by eradicating duplicate records and excluding voters who have moved out of state. Opponents say it will misuse the data and put legitimate voters through the legal throttling.

Let’s take a closer look at this issue.

What is the Voter Challenge?

Georgia, like other states, allows citizens to challenge a person’s eligibility to vote, such as if they personally know a neighbor has moved out of state. But now residents are increasingly using non-personal data, such as the National Change of Address List maintained by the U.S. Postal Service, to challenge large numbers of voters. Some people comb through directories looking for people who are not registered in their place of residence. A Texas group called True the Vote has challenged 364,000 Georgia voters ahead of two 2021 U.S. Senate runoff elections. Since then, individuals and groups have challenged approximately 100,000 more voters.

What motivates the challenger?

Under federal law, Georgia can only be removed from the rolls if they do not respond to a mailing to their registered address and do not vote in the next two federal general elections. This process may take him five years. Republican activists supporting the challenge to many voters say it’s gone on too long.

“These voters moved months or years before voting at their old address, went back and presented a driver’s license they knew they hadn’t renewed, claimed they still lived there, and were unable to vote. voters who are entitled to do so,” Mark Davis said. Gwinnett County residents said they have been scouring voter rolls for decades. He testified on the Republican side at a state Senate hearing on February 15 and helped shape this year’s bill.

Why are some people opposed to the challenge?

Opponents call the mass voter challengers “vigilante groups” who are upsetting the balance between updating voter rolls and ensuring everyone’s right to vote.

“There are people here who want to pretend that there’s a huge problem with the list and that if there’s a dead person’s name on the list, it’s a real safety risk,” said Saira, an Atlanta Democrat who opposed the bill. said Congressman Draper. Bill said last week. “But if you put aside the fearmongering and the leaps in logic, the facts show that the actual voter fraud in Georgia is extremely small.”

Fair Fight Action, a group that lost a lawsuit over the True the Vote challenge founded by Abrams, said the challenge disproportionately targeted young, poor voters, including African Americans. It is claimed that there is. Fair Fight interim CEO Lauren Groh-Wargo said she believes Republicans are trying to win the Georgia election by eliminating Democratic-leaning voters.

Opponents also note that the challengers include party activists and Trump allies who happen to support Trump’s false claims. One of them is Brad, the head of the Georgia Republican Election Trust Task Force and one of 16 Republicans who falsely claimed to be Trump’s legitimate electors in Georgia. It’s Mr. Carver. The former participant in a January 2021 call in which President Trump asked Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn Biden’s victory in Georgia. Trump lawyer Cleta Mitchell is also involved.

“I find it hard to believe that when it comes to election policy, we are still bending over backwards to accommodate election deniers, conspiracy theorists, and unindicted co-conspirators,” Draper said.

What will the new bill do?

The bill establishes presumptive grounds for removing a voter from the rolls, including death, proof of voting or registration in another jurisdiction, tax exemption showing primary residence elsewhere; or contains a non-resident address. Most controversially, the new bill states that a national change of address list can be taken into account, although not exclusively. Opponents say the list is unreliable.

However, it’s unclear how the law will change things because the state has not issued guidelines to counties on how to address the challenges. That is, some may accept them based on the probable cause outlined in the bill, while others may reject wholesale challenges altogether.

What do the opponents think is the problem?

Opponents of the new bill say it could harm legitimate voters. For example, people sometimes live in business locations that are considered non-residential addresses. Officials in Mr. Raffensperger’s office say there are more reliable types of information to verify voter eligibility, such as driver’s license data.

Gabriel Sterling, Raffensperger’s chief operating officer, testified in February that removing voters too aggressively from the rolls could lead to lawsuits under the National Voter Registration Act.

“If you do loose data matching, you’re going to get a lot of false positives,” Stirling said. “If you get a lot of false positives, you’re going to get sued and you’re going to have a lot of problems maintaining the list.”

The bill also requires homeless people to use their county voter registration office as their address, rather than their place of residence. Opponents say it could make it difficult for homeless citizens to vote because their registered voting place could be far away.

Could challenged voters be scared away?

Opponents argue that receiving a voter challenge letter in the mail is a frightening experience and that voters may have to make time to attend county meetings to protect their eligibility.

However, a federal judge ruled in January that the challenge did not constitute an illegal threat under the Voting Rights Act.

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Are there grounds for a lawsuit?

The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia has already threatened to sue if Kemp signs the bill.

The National Voter Registration Act says states and counties cannot systematically change their voting rolls within 90 days after a federal election. Georgia’s bill would allow objections up to 45 days before an election to remove voters from the rolls.

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