Nationwide, legislators are collaborating on new voting policies and restrictions to increase security and decrease voting fraud. These policy changes should encourage voters disenfranchised by the rapid changes forced into place due to the pandemic.
Some Republican officials expressed concerns regarding the future of the electoral process. Currently, their goal is making sure current voting policy is explicitly followed while providing guidance to limit variance in procedure.
Currently, many constituents are concerned the system is fraudulent. Lawmakers seek to re-engage these disenfranchised voters.
Others are concerned if changes aren’t implemented, there is little chance Republicans can win future elections. “They don’t have to change all of them, but they’ve got to change the major parts of them so we at least have a shot at winning,” Alice O’Lenick, a Republican on the Gwinnett County, Ga., board of elections in suburban Atlanta, told the Gwinnett Daily Post last week.
Georgia is at the epicenter of this GOP push to change state laws to prevent voting fraud. State Republicans in red and battleground states, are increasingly concerned with the declined trust in election integrity.
Texas Growing Pains
Texas Republicans have already called on the legislature there to ensure “election integrity” is the top priority in 2021. The Texas Republican Party has called for a reduction in the number of days of early voting. Additionally, they have increased the push for Voter IDs. Moreover, his push has gained steam in at least five states. North Carolina seeks to implement new voter ID policies supported by the court.
Sunday, Politico reported, “Voter ID laws are usually very popular among the general public — a 2018 Pew Research poll found three-quarters of Americans surveyed supported laws requiring voters to present a photo ID — but activists say they are problematic for several disparate groups of voters.”
“They are students and other young people, they’re communities of color, they’re older adults who are no longer driving. It effects people with low income, people with disabilities,” said Kathleen Unger, the founder of VoteRiders. VoteRiders estimated up to 25 million voting-age Americans lacked a government-issued photo ID.
Georgia Overhauling Election Laws
Georgia is looking to intensely scrutinize and overhaul their states election laws. Republicans have proposed a bevy of changes. These include imposing limits on who can vote by mail to limiting the use of official ballot drop boxes. The drop boxes provided a secure way for people to return absentee ballots without using the postal system.
The Republican state Senate caucus endorsed ending the no-excuse absentee voting in Georgia. A disproportionate number of mail-in ballots used by Democratic voters in the 2020 elections, pushed President Biden towards the win. Biden received over one-third of votes in Georgia casted by mail, versus just 18 percent of Trump’s votes.)
Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who rejected fraud claims, also said he supported scrapping no-excuse mail voting. The system was too taxing on local election administrators, according to Raffensperger. GOP leaders have yet to agree on exact changes.
Republicans align universally behind requiring absentee voters to submit a copy of an ID. Providing an ID either when requesting or return a ballot will ensure voter integrity. This would replace a state’s signature verification system.
Re-engaging Disenfranchised Voters
“I think that has the most likelihood of being signed into law,” said state Sen. Larry Walker, the vice chair of the Republican Senate caucus. Walker admitted being “very supportive” of the change. He is keenly aware of his constituents concerns after receiving thousands of emails, letters, and texts.
“A large percentage of my constituents have lost faith in the integrity of our election system,” he said. “So we’re going to try to address some things we feel like can restore the public’s confidence in the system.”
He also rejected claims that changes would disenfranchise voters, citing the state’s high turnout. “I don’t think any of these ideas are burdensome or overly restrictive. They don’t lead to what I would consider voter suppression,” he said.
Voter ID’s are Working in More than Half the States
Currently, 36 states have some form Voter ID laws in place. Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin are also in talks over changes to voting laws.
Pennsylvania may experience growing pains in the upcoming cycle. “It isn’t a secret further election law changes must be made,” Pennsylvania state Rep. Seth Grove, Republican House State Government Committee chair, spoke at a hearing on the state’s election laws on Thursday afternoon. He noted both Democrats and Republicans have proposed changes to Pennsylvania election laws. Thursday’s hearing was the first of a planned 14 total hearings on election laws.