ATLANTA - Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said many of the changes included in the controversial election reform package approved by the state lawmakers last week are "solid reform(s)."
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed Senate Bill 202, the "Election Integrity Act of 2021," into law last Thursday and it has faced nationwide scrutiny. Opponents have labeled the legislation as "Jim Crow 2.0" and argue it disproportionately disenfranchises minority voters.
"Many of the measures are good measures," said Raffensperger in a one-on-one interview with FOX 5 Atlanta on Tuesday.
Raffensperger said he supports the new requirement that voters include their Georgia driver's license or state ID number on absentee ballot applications. Anyone without a state-issued ID can instead include a photocopy of a utility bill, bank statement, paycheck or government check.
Election employees will verify a voter's identity with those items rather than by comparing their signature.
"One of the issues that we've been having for several years is that we've been sued by the Democrats and also the Republicans on signature match because signature match is actually very subjective," Raffensperger explained. "And so, we can remove the subjectivity, go to objectivity and when we do that, I think it'll be a better process."
Raffensperger also praised the addition of one additional Saturday of early voting. The law also allows counties to add up to two Sundays of advance voting.
The Election Integrity Act also added the use of absentee ballot drop boxes into state law after they became a popular tool for absentee by mail voters during the pandemic.
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"It was an emergency rule put into place. So now it's actually put into law that every county — all 159 counties — will have drop boxes. Last year there were 38 counties that didn't have them and so now they'll be required to have them. So it's really a more uniform process and they'll be out there based on the population for every location," said Raffensperger.
The change, however, does reduce the number of drop boxes allowed in some more populated areas. Each county must have one drop box but is limited to just one per 100,000 registered voters. Fulton County, for example, had more than 40 drop boxes during the 2020 election but would be limited to only about 8 moving forward.
Raffensperger said he disagrees with the portion of the bill that strips him of his position as chair of the state election board and replaces him with someone appointed by the Speaker of the House.
"There's no accountability. When you have an elected representative that's the chair of the state election board, you can hold them accountable and so, at the end of the day, I think this will be something that voters in Georgia will probably regret sometime in the future. We just don't know when," Raffensperger said.
2018 Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and her organization, Fair Fight Action, have been vocal critics of the new law.
"There's been an awful lot of misinformation, disinformation about it already. In fact, I've actually, you know, challenged — if she's willing to it and brave enough to do it — Stacey Abrams to a debate," said Raffensperger.
"Mr. Raffensperger has already humiliated himself enough," a spokesperson for Abrams wrote in a statement to FOX 5. "Besides, which Raffensperger would show up?"
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