Voting Rights

Georgia Republicans Aim To Restrict Voting by Mail

The state Senate approved some cynical changes to Georgia's absentee ballot laws under the guise of securing future elections from fraud that no one seems to be able to find.


It's been more than four months since the 2020 election and Georgia's Republican-run state government has still not found any evidence of widespread voter fraud that could have unfairly tipped the state to President Joe Biden.

But that apparently isn't going to stop Republicans in the state legislature from making some cynical changes to Georgia's absentee ballot laws under the guise of securing future elections—securing them from the supposed fraud that they still can't find any evidence of.

The state Senate on Monday approved a bill limiting when Georgians can use no-excuse absentee voting—that is, voting by mail without having to first provide the state with a reason why you can't show up at the polls. That's the method of voting that more than 1.3 million of the state's residents used in last year's election, and which has been widely credited by state officials for helping boost Georgia's turnout to record high levels.

Under the terms of S.B. 241, residents will be allowed to vote by mail only if they are physically absent from their districts on Election Day, are physically disabled, are members of the military, or are celebrating a religious holiday. Only one group of people is still allowed to vote by mail for any reason: residents over age 65.

In other words, a demographic that is reliably Republican would still have access to no-excuse absentee balloting. Most everyone else would not.

In much the same way that Donald Trump's allegations of voter fraud in the wake of the election did, the debate over the new absentee voting bill has divided Republicans in Georgia. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who normally presides over the state Senate, handed off the gavel and left the chamber in protest when S.B. 241 was brought to the floor for a vote. Several other Republican senators refused to participate in the debate, the paper notes, but those abstentions were not enough to stop the bill from passing, 29-20.

Duncan has been a sharp critic of Trump supporters' baseless claims of widespread election fraud. He has also defended Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, both of whom have been on the receiving end of Trumpian vitriol since November merely because they've acknowledged the reality of Biden's victory.

Meanwhile, the Senate bill is moving to the state House, which has already passed a separate piece of legislation aimed at limiting the number of ballot drop-boxes that counties may use and restricting the time period during which voters may request absentee ballots. The state's legislative session ends on March 31.

Kemp has not yet indicated if he would sign either bill. In a statement to CNN on Monday, Kemp's office said the governor wants to "ensure Georgia's elections are secure, accessible, and fair—and that it must be easy to vote and hard to cheat in Georgia."

Of course, Kemp is also looking ahead to a potential re-election campaign next year—and the prospect of Trump campaigning against him, something the former president has vowed to do.

Such is the predicament Republican politicians now face, even in places, like Georgia, where expanded absentee voting was originally a Republican-backed idea. Loyalty to Trump means disregarding the evidence that absentee voting is secure and nonpartisan. It also means pushing to erode voting rights in order to stop supposedly widespread fraud that, beyond a few isolated incidents, no one seems to be able to actually find.