Georgia Republicans on Tuesday outlined a plan to restrict mail voting and roll back the election laws that contributed to the state's record-high turnout in the presidential election — unwinding rules the party itself put in place.
The framework for legislation — which would eliminate no-excuse absentee voting, add a voter ID requirement to mail ballots for voters with an eligible excuse and eliminate drop boxes — appears designed to respond to President Donald Trump's repeated and false claims that mail voting is rife with fraud.
“As soon as we may constitutionally convene, we will reform our election laws to secure our electoral process by eliminating at-will absentee voting. We will require photo identification for absentee voting for cause, and we will crack down on ballot harvesting by outlawing drop boxes,” the Republican Senate majority caucus said in a press release issued Tuesday.
There’s no evidence of substantive voter fraud in American elections, a fact affirmed by numerous academic studies and even Trump's own voter fraud commission. Attorney General William Barr, who has made misleading claims in the past about voter fraud, has also said there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.
There's also no evidence that drop boxes, mailbox-like receptacles that allow voters to return their ballots directly to election officials, are more vulnerable to fraud than other methods. Sealed ballots in those boxes are collected by election officials. What Republicans call ballot harvesting —the handling or delivery of a ballot by someone to whom that ballot does not belong — is already illegal in Georgia.
Voting rights experts have long argued that mail voting is already secure, and that these types of restrictions suppress voters, particularly Black and brown Americans who already face disproportionate hurdles.
Experts have warned that the president's false claims of voter fraud are laying the groundwork for additional voting restrictions that will suppress eligible voters.
Georgia Republicans also called for an investigation into “any and all fraudulent activities” and for additional audits of the 2020 general election. The state has already conducted two recounts of the results, which both found that President-elect Joe Biden won by more than 12,000 votes.
Early voting was hugely popular in Georgia's November election, in which the vast majority of voters cast a ballot by mail or in-person early. The huge shift in early and mail voting meant that Election Day wait times were short, averaging 3 minutes across the state, according to state officials.
Georgia Republicans created the state's no-excuse absentee voting system in 2005, under Gov. Sonny Perdue, who now serves at Trump's secretary of agriculture.
The lawmakers also vowed to unwind a legal agreement that standardized Georgia’s signature match policies earlier this year and trained poll workers in best practices, changes that led to a lower rejection rate of mail ballots.
“The Georgia Senate Republicans have heard the calls of millions of Georgians who have raised deep and heartfelt concerns that state law has been violated and our elections process abused in our November 3, 2020 elections. We will fix this,” the lawmakers wrote.
Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has also argued in favor of additional voting restrictions, many of which the Republican lawmakers embraced on Tuesday.
But he's reiterated that there is no evidence of widespread fraud or a stolen election.
“I know there are people that are convinced the election was fraught with problems, but the evidence. the actual evidence, the facts tell us a different story,” he said on Monday.