ATLANTA — Republican lawmakers may be gaining momentum to restrict absentee ballots – not in the upcoming runoff, but in the upcoming governor’s race two years from now.
Election results showed absentee ballots helped Democrat Joe Biden win in Georgia last month.
It only took a few days after the November election for Republican lawmakers to start targeting absentee ballot laws. Now, they’re doing it by pivoting away from arguments about alleged voter fraud -- and saying they overwork election staff.
In November, there were five times more absentee ballots used than in the November election two years ago. They created a lot of work for county election workers – who had to process each ballot envelope by hand while matching its signature with voter records.
Workers also had to manage in-person early voting and election day voting.
It was too much, said Ryan Germany of the Secretary of State’s office.
"They were being asked this year to basically run three parallel voting systems," Germany said. "Based on the volume of absentee (voters) this year, that was really unsustainable for counties."
Currently, Georgia has what’s called no-excuse absentee balloting – where any voter can apply for an absentee ballot without citing a need or hardship.
In 2020, the Secretary of State urged voters to use absentee ballots to avoid coronavirus exposure.
Republicans want to write a bill requiring voters to provide a reason to request an absentee ballot.
They could also require a signature match verified by a Notary Public, as some other states require.
If that reduces the number of absentee ballots, that’d be just fine with Deb Cox. The Lowndes County election director told 11Alive News in a statement, “it would take a large burden off of the overwhelmed election officials here in Lowndes County and across the state.”
The Paulding County elections director Deidre Holden concurred, citing "the extreme cost incurred in the processing of a ballot from beginning to end.”
President Donald Trump won both Lowndes and Paulding counties in November.
Democrats complain that restricting absentee voting amounts to voter suppression -- and that it would impact both parties.
"There will be millions of Republicans displeased if they have that option removed from them," said state Sen. Elena Parent, a Democrat from Atlanta.
Democrats like to point out that it was a Republican legislature that enacted the no-excuse-necessary absentee voting law more than a decade ago.