After years of targeted efforts to suppress the Black vote in Georgia, the state’s Republicans are looking to give new life to President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, this time by changing state law when the legislative session starts Monday. Republicans are suggesting legislation to eradicate “no excuse” absentee voting, ban mailers with unrequested absentee ballot applications, and banish drop boxes, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. This move comes after 1.3 million Georgia voters opted to cast absentee ballots in the presidential election, helping to flip a state that hasn’t backed a Democrat for president since former President Bill Clinton in 1992.
GOP Georgia Sen. Burt Jones actually claimed that voting during a pandemic is safer in person than using drop boxes or voting by mail. “When you don’t have a secure chain of custody, particularly with drop boxes, there’s no reason for that to be in the process,” he told the newspaper. “You’ve got three weeks of early voting and Saturday voting. You’ve given ample time and opportunities for people to get the effort to go in to vote.”
Georgia House Minority Leader James Beverly translated for the wider public. “They lost, and now they want to change the rules to give themselves a competitive advantage,” the Democrat told the AJC. “The pendulum swings, and people can see through this foolishness in the truest sense of suppression and disenfranchisement.”
Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has repeatedly supported calls to end “no excuse” absentee voting despite a 2005 law that has legalized the practice for more than 15 years. “This cycle has shown, we need to move to an excuse-based system for absentee voting,” Raffensperger said last month at a virtual hearing on voting security. “The no-excuses system voted into law in 2005—long before most of you, if not all of you, long before I was in the General Assembly—it makes no sense when we have three weeks of in-person, early voting available. It opens the door to potential illegal voting.”
Somehow, he managed to make this claim while also assuring Georgia voters that the widespread election fraud Trump has repeatedly alluded to is all but nonexistent, with Raffensperger’s office only investigating isolated examples. “Everything we’ve done for the last 12 months follows the Constitution, the state of Georgia, follows the United States Constitution, follows state law,” he told ABC News after facing threats from the president to “find” his votes to win the election. “We were having to adapt to a pandemic, and that did propose challenges.”
Raffensperger pointed out that although he doesn’t support it, David Shafer, chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, voted for “no excuse” absentee voting in 2005 when he was president pro tempore of the state Senate. Come December, however, he switched gears to pushing for restrictions on absentee voting. “Moving forward we should require photo identification for absentee balloting like we do for in-person voting. I think it’s pretty clear that the verification system has failed,” Shafer told NPR-affiliated WABE.
If by “failed,” he means failed to produce a GOP win, he would be correct. Not only did Trump lose his reelection bid to President-elect Joe Biden, but a majority of Georgia voters backed Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in their runoff Senate challenges of David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, according to election results from the Raffensperger’s office. “Better days are coming,” Ossoff tweeted the same day terrorists attempted a coup in the nation’s Capitol on Wednesday. Warnock similarly tweeted that “joy comes in the morning.” “The four most powerful words in a Democracy: The People Have Spoken. Thank you, Georgia. Now it’s time to get to work,” he added in another tweet Thursday.
Loeffler and Perdue offered concession speeches highlighting what they perceive as achievements last week. “Unfortunately, we came up slightly short in the runoff election, and earlier today I called Reverend Warnock to congratulate him and to wish him well in serving this great state,” Loeffler said in her videotaped concession speech Thursday.
Perdue conceded the next day. “Although we won the general election, we came up just short of Georgia’s 50% rule, and now I want to congratulate the Democratic Party and my opponent for this runoff win,” Perdue wrote in a statement CNN obtained. “(His wife) Bonnie and I will continue to pray for our wonderful state and our great country. May God continue to bless Georgia and the United States of America.”
Former Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, who helped deliver Democrats a triple-victory by registering voters in overlooked and underserved communities, celebrated with a Twitter thread naming all the grassroots, nonprofits, and advocacy organizations who helped secure the victory. “Nine weeks of hustle & outreach. Nine weeks of believing we are in this together. Decades of strategy, grit + building. Wednesday’s terrorism seeks to distract us from what has been & what will be. So let’s take today to celebrate the orgs that brought us Tuesday’s victory,” she tweeted Friday.
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