Critics react to Georgia House passing election bill that would restrict absentee voting

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Republican lawmakers pushed through legislation Monday night that calls for countless new rules and restrictions on voting in Georgia.

Critics say House Bill 531 — which requires a photo ID to request an absentee ballot and cuts the time voters have to request and receive ballots — comes after record turnout led to Democratic wins in the presidential race and the Senate runoffs in January.

HB 531 is one of a number of election bills being considered by lawmakers this year.

Voting rights advocate and former gubernatorial candidate in Georgia Stacey Abrams said on MSNBC: “We know, again and again, these laws are designed for one specific purpose — and that is to discourage or prevent people from voting.”

Abrams said Republicans “want to win elections not by having the best ideas by stealing the right to vote.”

Republican lawmakers, however, say the measure is needed to restore the public’s confidence in elections — which critics say was actually caused by former President Donald Trump and his allies who pushed false claims about fraud.

“House Bill 531 is designed to begin to bring back the confidence of our voters back into our election system,” said Republican Rep. Barry Fleming, the measure’s chief sponsor.

“And I’ve come out very supportive of the photo ID requirement on absentee ballots by mail to make sure we have a secure process,” said Gov. Brian Kemp. “Most Georgians wholeheartedly support the photo ID requirement, you do that when you vote in person.”

Abrams argued that voter ID requirements — including providing a photocopy of your ID, along with absentee ballot request paperwork — are requirements that some can’t meet.

“The underlying paperwork they have to have either doesn’t exist, is too complicated, or too expensive to access,” she explained.

In addition to new requirements on absentee ballots, the bill would limit the number of absentee ballot drop boxes that can be placed in a community. It would also have a day or two less of early in-person voting.

The bill now moves to the Georgia Senate, which has several proposals of its own.

The controversy comes as the U.S. Supreme Court takes up a case on the Voting Rights Act. The high court’s ruling could make it easier for states to pass legislation like HB 531 and put it into law without anyone being able to sue to stop it.

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