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Georgia Legislature Tackles Key Election Integrity Measures Before Session Ends

A Peach State elections watchdog believes a package of transparency and ballot security provisions would be huge election integrity wins. 


As the clock ticks down on Georgia’s 2024 legislative session, bills beefing up election integrity in the confidence-shaken swing state have met with success or stand a good chance at passage by Thursday’s final day of the session — Sine Die

And a Peach State elections watchdog believes a package of transparency and ballot security provisions likely to pass would be huge election integrity wins. 

‘A Bit Testy’

The Republican-controlled Georgia Senate, working deep into Tuesday evening, passed House bills 974 and 1207. The former requires that ballots in optical scan voting systems use a visible watermark security feature, according to HB 974’s text. It also calls for the secretary of state’s office to post ballot images online and expands the number of elections subject to risk-limiting, post-election audits. HB 974 enjoyed wide bipartisan support in the Georgia House of Representatives and the Senate. 

House Bill 1207 requires Georgia elections workers to be U.S. citizens, and it includes poll watcher, as well as poll worker, protections. Garland Favorito, co-founder of the nonpartisan, nonprofit VoterGA, said election integrity advocates pushed back on the hyperbolic narrative peddled by the left and corporate media that poll workers are under constant assault. 

“We flipped it around on them on the language and put protections for poll watchers equal to this for poll workers,” Favorito told The Federalist late Tuesday. 

Senate Ethics Committee Chairman Max Burns, a Republican, told his colleagues that while election bills are known to “get a bit testy,” HB 1207 is “about as noncontroversial as they come.” 

Burns spoke too soon. 

State Sen. Derek Mallow, a Democrat from Georgia’s 2nd District, took exception to a provision in the bill that would allow election superintendents to determine how many voting machines would be necessary on Election Day after they had a count on absentee ballots. Mallow also objected to the protections for poll watchers, language that expands and clarifies access and observation to allow observers to be as close as practicable without viewing confidential information. 

“I don’t want these folks that close to me when I’m discussing my electoral business with the poll worker,” the Democrat said, adding that he doesn’t care for the “power” the bill gives poll watchers who “think they are the law on election.” 

Burns, who knocked Mallow for failing to show up for Ethics Committee meetings, said the bill is about election integrity. “It ensures we are doing a better job in Georgia for our elections.” 

The bill ultimately passed closer to a party-line vote, 33-20, after passing effectively unanimously last month in the Georgia House. 

All Is Not Well

General Assembly watchers expect House Bill 976 — a meat and potatoes election integrity package — to come up for a Senate floor vote on Thursday. The bill, according to Favorito, includes a couple of VoterGA’s top five priorities this session. 

It would make ballots cast, upon certification, public record, allowing election watchers to verify results and detect counterfeit ballots. That’s a solid step forward from the current system, where the ballots are secretly counted in the machines. 

“That’s our No. 1 priority,” Favorito said. 

Another provision strengthens the ballot chain of custody by ensuring there are not gaps in the ballot handling process. The step should go a long way in preventing fraudulent ballots from being injected, Favorito said. 

“Those two provisions will solve problems that occurred in the past,” the elections watchdog added. 

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has proclaimed Georgia’s voter lists “the cleanest in the nation.They’re not, and the more Raffensperger insists so, the more he sounds like Kevin Bacon as ROTC cadet Chip Diller in frat classic movie “Animal House” screaming, “Remain calm! All is well!” amid the chaos of an out-of-control college parade.  

Bloated voter rolls are just one of many concerns confronting battleground Georgia’s election administration with a little over seven months to go before November’s general. 

As Mollie Hemingway, The Federalist’s editor-in-chief, reported in late 2021, corporate media have driven the narrative that there was nothing to see in the myriad election irregularities dogging Georgia in the 2020 presidential election. The song remains the same two and a half years later. 

“According to the media narrative, the Georgia presidential election was as perfectly run as any election in history, and anyone who says otherwise is a liar,” Hemingway wrote at the time. “To push that narrative, the media steadfastly downplayed, ignored, or prejudiciously dismissed legitimate concerns with how Georgia had run its November 2020 election and complaints about it.”

House Bill 976 also lays out standards for when parties and individuals may challenge invalid voter roll records. The bill allows challenges to those seeking to register to vote who are without a permanent residential address, reside outside the election jurisdiction, or have declared a homestead exemption in a different municipality or county, among other probable causes for a challenge.  

Leftist activists have attacked such challenges to suspect voter roll records as assaults on “democracy and the freedom to vote.” 

“Echoing shameful tactics utilized in the depths of Jim Crow, the bill passed out of committee today makes it even easier for MAGA vigilantes to try to throw hundreds, thousands or even hundreds of thousands of voters off the rolls at once,” far-left Fair Fight, using the usual dog whistles, dramatically declared last week in a statement. “This kind of activity creates a climate of voter suppression that is far-reaching, and it also jams up election offices, wasting resources and time. In fact- jamming up the election system is part of their stated aim.”

Favorito said such hyperbole defies the facts. He said 95 percent of the challenges do not involve voters but voting roll records that do not truly represent an actual voter.  

“This shouldn’t be controversial, but counties are refusing to remove the invalid voter roll records even when faced with corroborating evidence that the record is invalid,” the election integrity advocate said, noting the tens of thousands of invalid voter records in each of Georgia’s major metro counties. 

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