League of Women Voters weighs in on proposed changes in Georgia election laws

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Rebecca Rolfes knows more about voting than many of us. As the president of the League of Women Voters of Coastal Georgia she had a front row seat to issues surrounding Georgia’s much talked about November election and then the January runoff for two U.S. Senate candidates.

“The big result for us as a nonpartisan organization was the big turnout,” Rolfes told us. “I mean, the record in the general election and then record turnout in the runoff and nobody ever votes in a runoff.”

More than five million votes were cast in November. More than one million were cast by absentee ballot.

Rolfes says countless allegations of fraud were never proven. She points out that there were investigations, a number of court cases and three recounts in Georgia.

Rolfes says the election system worked which is why she has been paying attention since the Georgia Legislature went into session. A group of republican lawmakers are already proposing bills to change election laws. The changes would eliminate automatic voter registration when someone gets a driver’s license, reduce the number of people who could vote by absentee ballot and eliminate absentee ballot drop boxes.

“Our view is that the bills we have seen are completely unnecessary,” said Rolfes.

The drop box issue hits close to home as the League raised money last fall during the pandemic and was able to buy nine drop boxes for the Chatham County area. Rolfes says use of the boxes became important for many residents, especially as concerns surfaced about how long it would take to return a ballot in the mail.

“The boxes did their job effectively, people liked them, they were in convenient safe locations, they have 24 hour surveillance cameras with 30 day back up (video) so again someone saying ‘these boxes are not secure’ is an excuse. They are secure.”

There are also bills proposed that would cut down on the number of people eligible to vote by absentee ballot. Currently, Georgi has a “no excuse” absentee ballot rule, meaning anyone of any age may request one. The proposed changes make the mail in ballots available only to those 7t and older, those with disabilities and those who could prove valid excuses for not being able to be present in the state at election time.

“For the rest of us, especially in the face of a pandemic it was the safest way to vote, so why outlaw that,” Rolfes asked.

While lawmakers say they’re trying to secure the system and provide more confidence to voters, Rolfes says confidence in the system is being eroded.

“The intent, they say, is to make the election more secure. Well, there was nothing wrong with election, the system worked as it was designed to work. The people spoke and the General Assembly didn’t like what they heard,” said Rolfes.

The record turnout helped Democrat Joe Biden win the state of Georgia, the first time a democrat has won since 1994.

In January, democrats Jon Osoff and Raphael Warnock won Senate seats, helping to flip the U.S. Senate.

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