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Georgia Republicans want to make it easier to challenge voters' eligibility

Hours after NBC News revealed that at least 92,000 voter registrations were challenged last year, Georgia Republicans proposed changes to make challenges even easier.
Voters mark their ballots at Lawrenceville Road United Methodist Church in Tucker, Ga., on Nov. 8, 2022.
Voters mark their ballots in Tucker, Ga., on Nov. 8.Ben Gray / AP file

Georgia Republicans introduced legislation Tuesday to make it easier to kick voters off the rolls through mass challenges, according to a copy of the bill sent to lawmakers and shared with NBC News by an aide to two of the bill's sponsors.

Changes to the challenge rules were proposed to Senate Bill 221 on Tuesday night, part of a committee substitute replacing a previous version of the bill.

A draft of proposed legislation was released hours after NBC News exclusively revealed that at least 92,000 voter registrations were challenged in Georgia last year. Amateur fraud hunters largely used voter rolls, public records (including change-of-address data from the U.S. Postal Service) and some door-to-door canvassing in their claims that voters were ineligible.

Most of the challenges were rejected, and some counties said broadly that having mail forwarded was not enough evidence to conclude a voter had moved. Some people spend time at other addresses without abandoning residency in the state, advocates and election administrators said.

The new SB 221 would change that, noting that appearing on the postal service's change-of-address database “shall constitute sufficient cause to sustain the challenge against the elector” unless a voter is determined meet certain exceptions, like being a student.

It’s unclear whether sustaining a challenge would result in the voter’s registration getting canceled or require further action from county or election administrators, but voting rights advocates cautioned against the bill at a briefing Tuesday.

“If being on the [National Change of Address System] meant it was enough to take you off the voter rolls, that would be disastrous and I hope immediately thrown out of court,” said Vasu Abhiraman, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, arguing that federal voting rights law would prohibit such a rule.

Challenges made within 45 days of elections would be delayed, according to the legislation.

Jason Frazier, a Fulton County resident who filed thousands of 2022 voter challenges, spoke in defense of the bill at a committee hearing Tuesday.

"For the most part, I love the bill. I think it will help out quite a bit with the voter challenges," he said. "I'm not trying to disenfranchise anybody, but we need to do this the right way."

The bill would also increase the security at and surveillance of drop boxes in Georgia, requiring election officials to have video cameras and enough lighting to show voters' faces when they deposit their ballots.

The recordings, the bill says, must available online.

“It encourages vigilante intimidation and disenfranchisement,” said Esosa Osa, the deputy executive director of the voting rights group Fair Fight Action.