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Georgia Bill Restricting Absentee Voting, Strengthening ID Requirements Passes State Senate

  • Georgia’s Republican state Senate passed an election bill late Monday that would restrict absentee voting and implement other expansive changes to its elections.
  • The bill now heads back to the state House, where it is expected to pass before heading to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk. Its passage follows record turnout across the state, resulting in President Joe Biden’s narrow victory and Democrats flipping both of the state’s Senate seats in the Jan. 5 runoff.
  • To vote absentee under the new bill, Georgians would need to be at least 65, away from their home precinct, observing a religious holiday or a permanent caregiver. It also enforces strict voter ID measures, with identification required to both obtain an absentee ballot and return it.

Georgia’s Republican state Senate passed an election bill late Monday that would restrict absentee voting and implement other expansive changes to its elections.

The bill passed 29-20 after its introduction last week and now returns to the state House, where it is expected to pass before heading to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk. Its passage follows record turnout across the state, resulting in President Joe Biden’s narrow victory and Democrats flipping both of the state’s Senate seats in the Jan. 5 runoff.

To vote absentee under the new bill, Georgians would either need to be at 65 or older, away from their home precinct, or observing a religious holiday. Residents could also get an absentee ballot if they are working in an essential role “the entire time polls are open” or if they are overseas or in the military.

It also enforces strict voter ID measures, with identification required to both obtain an absentee ballot and return it.

If signed, the bill would reverse Georgia’s no-excuse absentee voting policies, which were adopted in 2005 with widespread GOP support.

Republicans have said that the bill was aimed at restoring voter confidence in elections, following the 2020 election that was met with constant, baseless allegations of widespread fraud.

“I want every legal vote counted, timely and accurately, and I want better access for all voters,” Georgia Senate President Butch Miller told CNN. “Even those of us who never claimed that the election was stolen recognize that the electorate has lost confidence in the legitimacy of the system. We must work to restore that.”

The bill would also limit the use of mobile voting locations, require court approval to extend polling hours and grant the state legislature power to block emergency voting changes.

Democrats have claimed that the law is plainly unconstitutional, and have vowed to contest it if enacted.

“This blatantly unconstitutional legislation will not go unchallenged,” Lauren Groh-Wargo, the CEO of the voting rights group Fair Fight Action, said Monday. “It’s time for leaders across Georgia to step up and oppose this dangerous bill before it goes any further. We will continue to fight in Georgia, in the courts, and in Congress to make sure that Georgians’ voting rights are not infringed.”

The bill is one of many that would overhaul states’ election laws that have been introduced across the country. Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a law Monday that required voters to request an absentee ballot application instead of automatically receiving one from the state, shortened early voting from 29 to 20 days and closed polls 8 p.m. instead of 9 p.m. on Election Day.

In Arizona, a bill introduced by Republican state Rep. Shawnna Bolick would give the legislature the power to put aside the will of voters and overturn the state’s election results, even if they have been certified by the governor and counted by Congress.

In Congress, Democrats passed H.R. 1, a sweeping election bill meant to combat voting restrictions and increase voting access. If passed, it would outlaw partisan gerrymandering and adopt multiple ethics reforms, but would also completely federalize the electoral process, legalize controversial measures like ballot harvesting and lower the voting age to 16.

RELATED ARTICLE: RNC To Create Election Integrity Committee

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VON SPAKOVSKY: How To Make Sure The 2020 Election Never Happens Again

To see what’s wrong with our election system, just look at all the claims and allegations being made in the litigation filed by the Trump campaign and other organizations contesting the outcome of the presidential election. Regardless of what happens with that challenge, state legislatures should take note of the underlying problems, which have existed for years, and finally do something about them — before we have our next set of state and federal elections.

The Heritage Foundation has an Election Fraud Database that provides a sampling of proven fraud cases from across the country. It highlights the many vulnerabilities in the election process that can be — and are — exploited by those willing to game the system. It is everything from non-citizens registering and voting, to vote-buying and submission of fraudulent absentee ballots, to individuals voting more than once because they are registered multiple times in the same state or are registered and voting in two different states (like former Democratic congressional candidate Wendy Rosen was caught doing in Maryland and Florida).

Anyone who doubts this type of activity can make a difference in an election should look at what happened this past summer in Patterson, N.J., where a new municipal election was ordered and four locals were charged with absentee ballot fraud. Or the 9th District congressional race in North Carolina that was overturned in 2018 due to absentee ballot fraud and illegal vote harvesting by a political consultant and six of his staffers, all of whom were criminally charged.

But it is not just intentional misconduct. It’s also the errors, mistakes, and incompetence of sloppy, inefficient systems that exacerbate all of these problems. Like state election officials not doing something as basic as checking the addresses of newly registered voters with county tax records to ensure they are really residential addresses where someone lives, as opposed to a vacant lot or a mall or a UPS store. Or modifying their registration software to detect multiple registrations by the same individual with only slight variations in his or her name, such as using a full middle name in one registration but only the first initial of that person’s middle name in a second registration. In many states, that will get you registered twice without election officials noticing, which will then allow you to vote twice with little chance of detection.

There are a whole series of steps that need to be taken by state legislators to fix these problems, and they should act in the upcoming legislative sessions that will start in many states in January 2021. It should be the states, not Congress, that address these issues, since the states are primarily responsible under our Constitution for administering elections.

There is no doubt they will run into opposition, and left-wing advocacy groups will sue to try to stop any reforms that would fix these problems and make it harder to cheat. States just need to be prepared to defend their reforms in court, the way states that have implemented voter ID laws have, usually successfully.

In fact, that is the first reform states need: requiring a government-issued photo ID to vote not just in-person as in Georgia and Indiana, but also for absentee ballots, as is the law in Kansas and Alabama. That includes providing an ID at no charge for the tiny percentage of the residents of their states who don’t already have one. And states need to modify their driver’s licenses, which are the default national ID card used by the average American every day for many different purposes besides voting, to conspicuously note whether the individual is a citizen or not.

Unfortunately, it is easy for a non-citizen, legal or illegal, to register and vote with little chance of being caught, because states don’t verify citizenship. That needs to change. States should require proof of citizenship to register to vote. They should also use available Department of Homeland Security records to check the citizenship of registered voters.

For those of us who’ve been called for jury duty, you may recall that you had to swear under oath that you are a U.S. citizen. Yet very few states require state courts to notify election and law enforcement officials when individuals called for jury duty using voter registration lists are excused because they are not U.S. citizens. Furthermore, federal courts also use state voter registration lists to find jurors for federal cases. Yet they also don’t notify states when those called for jury duty are excused for not being U.S. citizens. This should have been changed years ago.

Absentee ballots are the only ballots voted outside the supervision of election officials and outside the observation of poll watchers, making them particularly susceptible to fraud, forgery, theft, and numerous other problems we’ve seen surface in this year’s election. For that reason, the use of absentee ballots should be limited to individuals who have a valid reason, such as being disabled or out of town on Election Day, to vote absentee. They should require witness signatures or notarization and the signatures of voters on both absentee ballot request forms, and the absentee ballots themselves should be compared to the signature of the voter on file before they are accepted.

With all of the disputes over absentee ballots received after Election Day, the deadline in every state for receipt of a completed absentee ballot should be Election Day itself. Voters have many weeks prior to Election Day to obtain and vote via absentee ballot. There is simply no reason to have a deadline past that day. Additionally, vote-harvesting should be banned in every state. You are just asking for trouble if you give candidates, campaign staffers, party activists, and political consultants the ability to pick up and handle the ballots of voters – including subjecting voters to coercion and intimidation.

Absentee ballots should only go to voters who request them — there should be no automatic mailing of such ballots to all registered voters. Why? Because as this and past elections have shown, state voter registration lists are in terrible shape, filled with voters who have moved, died, or otherwise become ineligible. That is because many states are not taking the most basic steps to keep their lists accurate and up-to-date. They need to be comparing their voter-registration lists with other states; using available state, federal, and commercial databases such as credit agencies, tax records, driver’s licenses, and public assistance filings; Department of Homeland Security alien records, and deaths listed by the Social Security Administration and other government agencies.

These fixes are just a start. There are many others to add to this list, including more vigorous investigations and prosecutions of fraud by election and law enforcement officials who all too often don’t want to know about these problems or don’t take them seriously.

We have razor-thin elections all the time in this country at the federal, state and local levels. As the Supreme Court and many others have pointed out, including the bipartisan Carter/Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform, fraud can make the difference in a close election. And so can errors and slip-ups by election officials. That is why state officials all over the country need to concentrate on addressing all of these vulnerabilities and problems and finally do something about them.

COLUMN BY

HANS VON SPAKOVSKY

Hans A. von Spakovsky is a Senior Legal Fellow and Manager of the Election Law Reform Initiative at The Heritage Foundation and a former election official. He is the co-author of “Who’s Counting? How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk” and “Obama’s Enforcer: Eric Holder’s Justice Department.”

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Senator Rand Paul: With Utmost Respect, You’re Wrong About This

Perhaps it is due to me being a PK (preacher’s kid) with fond childhood memories of adoringly watching my dad preach well prepared sermons at the Holy Temple Church of Truth storefront in a Baltimore ghetto, the Bible remains my ultimate reference source for wisdom and leadership.

Moses who led the Israelite people out of slavery is an excellent example of what to do and what not to do as a leader. His decisions were rooted in obedience to God’s instructions which proved to be most beneficial to his flock. Moses ignored vehement critics and even them threatening to stone him to death. He did the right thing even when it did not jive with popular opinion. That is leadership folks.

On one occasion, due to pressure from his people, Moses disobeyed God and took matters into his own hands. God’s punishment was harsh. God told Moses he would not be permitted to bring his people into the Promised Land. Leaders do not surrender, making decisions which they know to be wrong to appease bullies, manipulators and the ignorant.

A case in point is Senator Rand Paul. Sen. Paul is out there saying that the GOP should back away from requiring a photo ID to vote.

Common sense tells us that requiring a photo ID to vote is a reasonable logical way to prevent voter fraud. Since a photo ID is required to complete a plethora of transactions, what is the big deal? Thus, it is absurd to call the photo ID requirement to vote racist.

In essence, Sen Paul is surrendering to the mainstream media supported Democrat absurd lie that requiring a photo ID to vote is racist. During a radio interview Senator Paul said that the GOP should not push something that is “offensive” to a group of people.

Senator Paul with all due respect, and I truly do respect and like you, I find your pandering to my fellow blacks disappointing.

Since Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 War on Poverty, the Democratic party has implemented programs and lowered standards which have wrecked havoc on black families; treating us as inferiors in need of special concessions and endless government handouts to survive. Sen Paul, the last thing we Americans who happen to be black need is for the GOP to embrace the Left’s paradigm that we are lesser Americans. Do not expect too much of us poor black folks because we “be” special.

Okay, I get it and wholeheartedly agree that the GOP should reach-out to black America. Frankly, the GOP is a little late to the dance. For years, I have been pestering the GOP to reach-out to the black community with “Reach Your Dreams” tours.

My concept is simple. The tour would feature great music. I know awesome conservative rappers and dancers who could capture the ears of the young and hip seniors. Imagine successful minority speakers like Herman Cain, Katrina Pierson and others on stage sharing how they achieved their American Dreams via education, hard work and right choices (conservative principles). The GOP defeatist response has been, “Why bother? The Democrats will get 95% of the black vote no matter what we do.”

Apparently, that opinion has changed and the GOP is wisely pursuing black voters. But for crying out loud, offering a liberal Democrat-Lite agenda and treating blacks like inferiors too stupid to find their way to the DMV is not the way.

Sen Paul rather than surrendering to the Democrats’ and MSM’s spin that requiring a photo ID to vote is racist, show real “presidential candidate” leadership. Turn the table on the Dems. Tell black voters that the Democrats are insulting their intelligence. The Democrats talk down, expect less and treat them like lesser Americans.

When these supposed advocates of black empowerment (NAACP, Congressional Black Caucus, Obama Administration and the MSM), say requiring a photo ID to vote disenfranchises blacks, it is a major “dis”. Black America should be outraged. With friends who think so little of us blacks, we do not need enemies.

I am not just picking on Senator Paul. I am simply saying voters are discouraged and frustrated with soulless politicians/candidates whose every decision is a political calculation and an attempt to win votes at any and all cost. It is not unreasonable for voters to expect political leaders with character and backbone who simply desire to serve and do the right thing for their constituents and America.

Steve Lonegan running for U.S. Congress in New Jersey and South Carolina U.S. Congressman Trey Gowdy are two guys that fit the bill. I love these guys. Neither give a hoot about being politically correct. Both are fearless fighters for truth, justice and defending our liberty and freedom. That’s what I’m talkin’ about.

I have not selected my preferred 2016 GOP presidential nominee. I want someone trustworthy who will always do what is honorable, righteous and best for my country; no divisive pandering or special concessions to groups to win votes. Please, we have had enough of that low rent politicking in government.

Nor, will I support a GOP candidate who sticks their finger in the air to see which direction the MSM endorsed and consultant’s political wind is blowing and designs their platform accordingly. Stop insulting our intelligence and morality by continuously advocating lowered intellectual and moral standards and calling it outreach and creating a “big tent”.

We are Americans, products of a remarkably successful unique experiment. GOP, deal with us accordingly with respect; not like the Democrats who treat Americans, particularly minorities, like incapable inferior entitlement junkies in need of government managing every aspect of our lives.

We need a conservative leader who will grab the steering wheel and reverse the direction of our country away from Obama’s Government Controlled Welfareville. A true conservative will drive us back toward our Founding Fathers’ Promised Land of liberty and freedom where Americans are encouraged to be all they can be.

Sen Paul, America needs leadership, not surrender and pandering.