President-elect Joe Biden won the historically red state by about 12,000 votes. Republicans want to ensure that doesn't happen again.
Georgia Republicans are determined to change voting rules to make sure they never suffer another election defeat, after losing their state's 16 electoral votes last month.
After decades as a solidly red state, Georgia voters choose President-elect Joe Biden over Donald Trump in November by about a 12,000 vote margin. Additionally, Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue failed to receive majorities in their respective races and were forced into January runoffs by their Democratic challengers.
Though even many GOP state officials have vouched for the legitimacy of the November results, Republicans have taken an array of steps to change the system to prevent future Democratic victories, throwing a number of options at the wall that include lawsuits, legislation, and constitutional amendment proposals in their hunt to disenfranchise even more of their constituents.
Ignoring certified election results entirely
A Texas lawsuit is seeking to toss out Georgia's 2020 vote entirely and force a do-over, even though the results were certified three times over, under state law.
On Monday, Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a bizarre lawsuit asking the Supreme Court to overturn the 2020 election results from Georgia, as well as three other swing states Biden won. Citing no evidence of actual fraud, Paxton urged new elections based on the fact that various states conduct elections differently and the some made it easier to vote by mail during the pandemic.
Though legal experts say the lawsuit is weak, some Georgia Republicans have endorsed it. Sens. Loeffler and Perdue put out a statement of support, and Reps. Rick Allen, Buddy Carter, Drew Ferguson, and Austin Scott signed onto an amicus brief in support of the effort.
Requiring photo identification for mail-in votes
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, called last month for new rules to make mail-in voting more difficult, including a requirement that people provide photo identification to do so.
Voter ID laws are a common tool to disenfranchise citizens from voting, as many do not have access to government-issued photo identification.
Requiring photo ID for voting by mail — especially during a pandemic — can be especially burdensome for those who do not own a photocopier or a scanner.
Still, the GOP-controlled state Senate began consideration of such a change last week. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp praised the idea, arguing, "Voters casting their ballots in person must show a photo ID, and we should consider applying that same standard to mail-in balloting."
Making it easier to throw out votes
Raffensperger also endorsed changes in November to make it easier to challenge other people's votes. He said this would "build voters trust in our electoral system."
On Thursday, the Georgia Republican Party and others filed a federal lawsuit asking that the state's existing signature-matching rules for mail-in votes be declared unconstitutional and demanding a new system in which all absentee ballot signatures be subject to "verification by three reviewers, in the presence of at least one meaningful observer from each political party represented by the candidates."
According to the American Civil Liberties Union, strict signature matching rules often disenfranchise "voters already at the margins — people with disabilities, trans and gender-nonconforming people, women, people for whom English is a second language, and military personnel," whose signatures may change over time.
Limiting drop-box hours for mail-in votes
Another lawsuit, filed in state court this week by the Republican National Committee and Georgia Republican Party, seeks to make it harder for those voting by mail to safely drop their votes in a secure drop box.
Noting that such boxes were not used prior to this year, the suit asks that they be prohibited except "during regular business hours when the offices of the county registrar and absentee ballot clerk are open and accessible to the general public."
Given ongoing U.S. Postal Service delays, such a change could make it harder for voters who work during daytime business hours to get their ballots in on time to be counted.
Preventing voters from choosing their secretary of state
On Thursday, Georgia House Speaker David Ralston demanded a constitutional amendment to allow the state legislature, not the voters, to select Georgia's secretary of state.
Ralston argued that this was necessary because, "As the state’s chief elections official, it is incumbent on the Secretary of State to be responsive to the People's House and faithfully perform his or her duties in accordance with the laws passed by the General Assembly.”
The state legislature maps, of course, are written by the majority party and have been gerrymandered to preserve Republican control. By preventing statewide voters from choosing a statewide official, they could make sure no Democrat holds the office, regardless of popular will.
Some of these changes would not take effect until future elections. But if the lawsuits succeed, they could make it harder for citizens to participate in the Jan. 5 runoffs that will likely determine control of the U.S. Senate for the next two years.
Given its long history of racial discrimination, Georgia was long restricted from making changes to disenfranchise voters under the Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. But in 2013, the conservative majority on the Supreme Court struck down those voter protections, arguing that they were no longer necessary.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.