Georgia Election Law Highlights
Georgia’s election laws can be found in Title 21 of the Georgia Statutes.
Georgia law requires voters to show photo identification to vote in person. If a Georgia voter does not have one of the acceptable forms of identification, the state will issue a free Voter ID Card.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has encouraged Georgians to vote absentee by mail as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fulton County, home to Atlanta, has experienced some problems with tracking requests for absentee ballots and getting them delivered to voters in a timely manner.
SAFE Commission, 2018 Gubernatorial Election and HB 316
In April 2018, then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp established the Secure, Accessible & Fair Elections (SAFE) Commission to study options for changes to Georgia’s voting system. The Commission released a report with 8 recommendations in January 2019:
1. “Georgia should adopt a voting system with a verifiable paper vote record. Every effort should be made to implement this system statewide in time for the 2020 election. The system should create an auditable paper record for every vote that the voter has an opportunity to review before casting. Rules should be put in place ensuring a rigorous chain of custody for these paper records, as are in place now for security of paper ballots and memory cards.”
2. ”Georgia should remain a uniform system state, with each county using the same equipment that is initially provided by the state.”
3. “The implementation of a new system should include a training plan and budget to educate both voters and county election officials.”
4. “Any new system should ensure that disabled voters have the same opportunity for access and participation as other voters in accordance with HAVA and the ADA. Any new system should be certified by the EAC.”
5. “Georgia’s new voting system should include new vote casting devices, new scanners, and new pollbooks. There should be paper backups for each of these systems to the extent possible, including paper registered voter lists and ballots. For each new type of hardware, steps should be taken to ensure both security and functionality. Any new hardware or software needs to be compatible with Georgia’s existing voter registration system.”
6. “Given Georgia’s history as a state that uses [Direct Recording Electronic Machines] and the familiarity of voters and election officials with that method of vote casting, Georgia should move to a primarily ballotmarking device with verifiable paper ballots solution for a new voting system.”
7. “Georgia should require post-election, pre-certification audits. These audits will certainly be time consuming and add work to county election officials, but they are necessary to show transparency and maintain trust in the elections process.”
8. “In order to successfully implement this new system, other areas of Georgia election law should be updated to ensure compatibility with the new system and improve election administration. Some of these updates may require updates to Georgia statutes, while some may be better suited to regulations promulgated by the State Election Board.”
2018 Gubernatorial Election
The 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election was marked by controversy when Brian Kemp defeated Stacey Abrams by a margin of a little more than 1%. A lawsuit filed by Fair Fight Action alleged that minority voters were “disproportionately disenfranchised” by Georgia’s election system.
Following the recommendations of the SAFE Commission and the 2018 election, HB 316 was passed by the Georgia Legislature and signed into law by Governor Brian Kemp in 2019. The legislation made several significant changes to Georgia election law including:
-Requiring electronic touchscreen voting machines to generate a paper ballot;
-Providing for a provisional ballot system in the event that a signature on an absentee ballot does not match the signature on file;
-Requiring that no changed be made to precincts less than 60 days prior to an election;
-Lowering the threshold for a candidate to request an automatic recount from 1% to 0.5%; and
-Increasing the time before a voter becomes inactive (and removed from voter rolls) from 3 to 5 years.