ATLANTA — The Georgia legislature will consider a bill this winter to eliminate absentee ballot drop boxes. They’re the boxes that first appeared in last year’s election– as an alternative to in-person voting during the pandemic.
The drop boxes were very popular in a year when many voters didn’t want to enter polling precincts as COVID spread. And with record turnout, Democrats won elections in Georgia they hadn’t won in previous years.
Now Republican Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) has dropped a bill that would eliminate absentee ballot drop boxes entirely. Miller is the senate president pro tempore, the chamber's most powerful member.
Miller released a statement saying calling drop boxes were “an emergency measure during the pandemic.” Eliminating them, he said, would “return to a pre-pandemic normal of voting in-person. Removing drop boxes will help rebuild the trust that has been lost.” Miller is running for Lieutenant Governor and faces Republican challengers.
"Leave them out there," Frances Fox said, who lives in a senior citizen community in Riverdale which, she says, made ample use of the drop boxes. She says the state ought to be broadening, not restricting them.
"Put more of them in more strategic places. Rather than eliminating what you have?" Fox asked. "No. Give us more opportunity, not less."
In the wake of former president Donald Trump’s repeated false claims about election fraud, Republicans in Georgia have responded with bills that rein in some voter access in the name of election security.
Democratic state Sen. Valencia Seay (D-Riverdale) says Miller's bill follows a Republican playbook. "Everybody (in the GOP) wanted to say 'fraud' but nobody can show fraud. So it’s just trying to suppress the vote."
Miller was a co-sponsor of SB202, the GOP election bill that reined in absentee balloting and other election procedures. It also created rules for the use of absentee drop boxes, which were never previously part of state law.
Miller's bill would repeal a portion of the bill he co-sponsored earlier this year.