You Need to Know What the GOP in Georgia is Trying to Do to Voting Laws

Mike JordanFebruary 23, 2021

Georgia Voting on Fire animation

You may have heard recently that the Republican party, which holds a strong majority in the state legislature in Georgia, is proposing changes to voting rights here in the Peach State. But how much you know about it may be related to how little noise there has been from the public until very recently.

Here at Butter.ATL, we try as hard as possible to be somewhat reasonable when it comes to politics. We may not fit the exact definition of “nonpartisan,” but we’re decidedly non-asshole.

And when it comes to not only retaining but strengthening the civic duty that is voting in America, we fall on the side of the great John Lewis. Yes, he was a Democrat. But he didn’t have to wear blue to do the right thing, and neither do Georgia lawmakers.

So just in case you hadn’t had time to see what Georgia’s state representatives and government leadership are trying to do with your right to vote, here’s the meltdown on HB 531:

The push began back in December, during the period after the former president lost his reelection bid and before the runoffs. Georgia Republicans filed three lawsuits — two in federal court and one with the state — to try and change rules around absentee voting. The federal cases were tossed out.

Politico reported at the time that the cases were “likely just the start of a yearlong push by state Republicans to tighten voting rules in response to the 2020 election.” They were correct, and here we are, with a bill that sounds very much like it’s aimed at Georgia’s Black voters, who were the most instrumental in the elections of President Biden, and Senators Warnock and Ossoff.

HB 531 wants to bring about the following changes:

(the ones in bold are the ones that sound shadiest)

  • To provide that no election superintendents or boards of registrars shall accept private funding
  • To provide that certain persons may serve as poll workers in other than the county of their residence
  • To provide for the reduction in size of certain precincts under certain circumstances
  • To provide for certain reports
  • To provide limitations on the use of buses and other movable facilities
  • To provide for allocation of voting equipment by counties and municipalities
  • To provide for the time and manner for applying for absentee ballots
  • To provide for certain limitations on the distribution of absentee ballot applications
  • To provide for the manner of processing of absentee ballot applications
  • To provide for absentee ballot drop boxes and the requirements therefor
  • To provide for the time and manner of issuing absentee ballots
  • To provide for the manner of voting and returning absentee ballots
  • To revise the times for advance voting
  • To provide for the processing and tabulation of absentee ballots
  • To provide sanctions for improperly opening an absentee ballot
  • To provide for certain elector identification for absentee balloting
  • To provide for monitors and observers
  • To provide for poll watcher training
  • To provide for restrictions on the distribution of certain items within close proximity to the polls on election days
  • To provide for the processing of provisional ballots
  • To provide for duplication panels for defective ballots that cannot be processed by tabulating machines
  • To provide for ranked-choice voting for military and overseas voters
  • To revise the time for runoffs
  • To revise eligibility to vote in runoffs
  • To provide for the deadline for election certification
  • To provide for special primaries and special elections to fill vacancies in partisan offices
  • To provide for public notice and observation of preparation of voting equipment
  • To provide for observation of elections and ballot processing and counting
  • To prohibit observing or attempting to observe how a voter marks or has marked his or her ballot or inducing a voter to do so
  • To provide for related matters
  • To repeal conflicting laws

And for other purposes.

Here’s more on how HB 531 could specifically affect you and/or folks you know:

  • It would take away mobile voting bus setups
  • The earliest you’d be able to request an absentee ballot is 11 weeks before an election.
  • The latest you could request an absentee ballot would be two Fridays before election.
  • Voting drop boxes would only be allowed at early voting sites, and would only be open during early voting hours.
  • Counties could no longer add extra early voting hours on weekends.
  • It would ban “line warming,” which includes giving food/water to folks standing in long lines to vote.
  • And perhaps in the clearest signal of who it wants to affect most, it would ban Georgia counties from early voting on Sundays. As you may know, many Black churchgoers vote on Sundays, through a get-out-the-vite effort traditionally called “Souls to the Polls.”

Here’s what notable ATLiens and other voices are saying:

Georgia Public Broadcasting reporter Stephen Fowler has an excellent breakdown of what the bill means in this Twitter thread:

TL;DR: Here’s a bit of… optimism?

For more information, you can listen to this podcast from the AJC.

And if you want to get involved, a great place to start is to contact Georgia’s state representatives. You can do that here.

Don’t get got!