Georgia’s Voting Laws Face Renewed Controversy Ahead of Potential Trump-Biden Rematch

Atlanta, Georgia has become a battleground for heated debates over election laws in recent years. Since Democrat Stacey Abrams’ narrow loss to Republican Brian Kemp in the 2018 governor’s race, tensions have been high. The issue gained national attention in 2021 when Republicans, pressured by activists who believed in Donald Trump’s false claims of widespread election fraud, swiftly implemented a new law imposing stricter voting restrictions. With a likely rematch between Trump and President Joe Biden on the horizon, Georgia is once again tinkering with its state election laws. Just last week, Republican lawmakers passed a bill that, if signed by Kemp, would allow the removal of voters from the rolls through challenges to their eligibility.

Advocates of these challenges argue that they are necessary to prevent voter fraud by identifying duplicate records and removing voters who have relocated out of state. However, critics believe that they misuse data and unfairly subject legitimate voters to unnecessary scrutiny. The challenges can be filed based on impersonal data, such as the U.S. Postal Service’s National Change of Address list, which has led to an increasing number of voters being targeted. For instance, a Texas-based group called True the Vote challenged the eligibility of 364,000 Georgia voters ahead of the 2021 U.S. Senate runoffs, and since then, approximately 100,000 more voters have been challenged.

One of the motivations behind these challenges is the desire to expedite the process of removing voters from the rolls. Under federal law, a voter can only be removed if they fail to respond to a mailing at their registered address and subsequently fail to vote in two federal general elections, a process that can take up to five years. Some Republican activists argue that this timeframe is too long and advocate for more efficient means of challenging voters’ eligibility.

Opponents of the challenges argue that they disrupt the delicate balance between updating voter rolls and ensuring everyone’s right to vote. They claim that the prevalence of voter fraud is incredibly small and that the challenges disproportionately target younger and poorer voters, including African Americans, who are more likely to move frequently. There is also a concern that the challengers include party activists and Trump allies who have supported false claims about the 2020 election. Critics view this as a deliberate attempt to suppress Democratic-leaning voters and question the motives behind these challenges.

The new legislation proposed in Georgia defines probable causes for voter removal, including evidence of voting or registering in another jurisdiction, a tax exemption indicating a primary residence elsewhere, or a nonresidential address. One particularly controversial aspect of the bill is the inclusion of the National Change of Address list as a consideration, despite concerns about its reliability. However, it remains unclear how the law will be implemented as the state has not issued guidelines to counties on how to handle these challenges. Different counties may interpret and respond to the challenges in different ways.

Opponents of the bill highlight several potential problems. For example, people who live at a place of business may be categorized as having a nonresidential address and may thus be at risk of being removed from the rolls. Officials argue that there are more accurate ways, such as driver’s license data, to verify a voter’s eligibility. Furthermore, the bill states that homeless individuals must use the county voter registration office as their address, potentially making it more difficult for them to cast their ballots if their registered polling place is far away.

Receiving a voter challenge letter can be a distressing experience for voters, and critics argue that it may deter voters from exercising their right to vote. However, a federal judge ruled in January that these challenges do not constitute illegal intimidation under the Voting Rights Act.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Georgia has threatened to sue if the bill becomes law. They argue that the bill violates the National Voter Registration Act, which prohibits systematic changes to voter rolls within 90 days of a federal election. The Georgia bill, if passed, would allow challenges to be accepted and voters to be removed from the rolls up until 45 days before an election.

The battle over election laws in Georgia continues, with advocates and opponents clashing over the impact these challenges have on the integrity of the voting system and the accessibility of the ballot. As Georgia prepares for the potential rematch between Trump and Biden, the outcome of the bill and its implications for future elections remain to be seen.