Former President Jimmy Carter slammed Georgia’s GOP lawmakers on Tuesday a day after the state’s Republican-controlled Senate passed legislation to limit mail-in voting almost exclusively to Georgians who are older, disabled or away from home on Election Day.
The efforts to “turn back the clock” on absentee voting have left him “disheartened, saddened and angry,” the 96-year-old Democrat said in a statement.
The legislation, which would end 15 years of allowing state voters to cast ballots by mail for any reason, and other restrictive voting measures passed by one chamber of Georgia's General Assembly are expected to end up in conference committee, where lawmakers will seek to reconcile competing legislation into a final bill.
The proposals come amid a flood of "election integrity" legislation across the country aimed at curtailing access to the ballot box mainly through rollbacks on mail-in voting, strict voter ID mandates and measures making it more difficult to stay on voter rolls. In the wake of the 2020 presidential election, many Republican lawmakers have rallied around former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud to push for tighter security measures.
Carter said the rationale for Georgia's measures is not based in fact.
“Many of the proposed changes are reactions to allegations of fraud for which no evidence was produced — allegations that were, in fact, refuted through various audits, recounts, and other measures," he wrote. "The proposed changes appear to be rooted in partisan interests, not in the interests of all Georgia voters."
In his statement, Carter also criticized references to a bipartisan election reform commission that he oversaw in 2005 alongside former Secretary of State James Baker, a Republican.
In the efforts to restrict mail-in voting, Republican legislators have frequently cited the commission’s finding that absentee ballots “remain the largest source of potential voter fraud" — a point Carter called selective and misleading.
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While the report — which ran more than 100 pages and contained dozens of recommendations — "noted a few good and bad examples of vote-by-mail practices, its main recommendation was that further study of voting by mail was needed,” the former president wrote. "In the 16 years since the report’s release, vote-by-mail practices have progressed significantly as new technologies have been developed. In light of these advances, I believe that voting by mail can be conducted in a manner that ensures election integrity. This is just one of several ways to expand access to the voting process for voters across the state, regardless of political affiliation."
In May, Carter became the first former president to publicly embrace mail-in voting. In a statement from the Carter Center, he called for states to expand and protect the option in light of the pandemic.