Georgia Senate approves four election reform bills

Georgia's Senate approved a handful of bills Tuesday designed to reform the state's election system.

Senate Bill 67 sparked the most debate. The legislation would require anyone who requests an absentee by mail ballot to provide their Georgia driver's license or state ID number on their application. Anyone without a Georgia-issued ID would have to send in a photocopy of another acceptable government-issued ID, like a passport.

The bill would do away with Georgia's current signature match system, which came under fire after the 2020 presidential election. The state voted for Joe Biden, the first Democrat to win Georgia since the 1990s.  

"Let's make no mistake about what this bill is about.  The election did not turn out the way you wanted it to turn out. That's what it's about," said Sen. David Lucas, D-Macon.  

Sen. Lucas wiped tears from his eyes when talking about the impact the bill could have on minority voters.

"I will not go back home and tell those folks who voted that I took away the right for you to vote and that's what this bill's about," Sen. Lucas said. "Every last one of these election bills is about the election didn't turn out the way you want and you want to perpetuate the lie that [President] Trump told."  

Sen. Larry Walker, III, R-Perry, disputed Lucas' characterization of the legislation.

"I want to say what deep affection I have for the Senator from the 26th. I have known [Sen. Lucas] since I was seven, eight years old, have great respect for him," Sen. Walker said.  "I disagree with his portrayal of what this bill is about. It's not about disenfranchising voters.  It's not about overly burdening the electorate. It is about efficiency and security and election integrity."  

The bill passed 35-18, with one Democrat voting "yes."

Senators also approved three other election-related measures, including one sponsored by Sen. Jen Jordan, D-Atlanta.

Senate Bill 40 would authorize county election workers to start opening and tabulating absentee ballots a little more than a week before Election Day. Under current law, they cannot open absentee ballot envelopes until the polls open.

"That really has delayed results coming in, which then of course, you know, gives people time to kind of think that there's something up or maybe that local elections boards aren't being transparent," Sen. Jordan explained. "So this really is to help folks at the local level, but also so that we can get results out to people as quickly as possible."  

That bill passed unanimously.

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