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Kemp signs bill to update Georgias election law

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(The Center Square) — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has signed an election reform measure, and, as with many matters in modern politics, opinions differ based on political proclivities.

Senate Bill 189, which updates the earlier SB 202, the Election Integrity Act of 2021, removes the Secretary of State from the State Election Board and bars local election officials, elections board and Secretary of State employees from securing state contracts specific to voting equipment. It also sets deadlines for submitting absentee ballots, establishes additional ballot chain of custody rules starting in 2025 and eliminates QR codes on ballots starting in 2026.

“SB 189 is a testament to our commitment to restoring faith in Georgia’s elections,” state Sen. Max Burns, R-Sylvania, said in a statement. “Building upon the solid foundation laid by Senate Bill 202 in 2021, we continue to prioritize integrity and accessibility. By championing transparency and accountability, we pave the way for fair elections that uphold the voice of every Georgia citizen.

However, the most controversial provision is perhaps an expansion of the ability to challenge and potentially remove ineligible voters from the voter rolls. The ACLU of Georgia said it planned a legal challenge.

“SB 189 is a step back for voters’ rights and voting access in the state of Georgia,” Andrea Young, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia, said in a statement. “Most importantly, this bill will require already overburdened election workers to spend time processing unnecessary voter challenges.

“As always, elected state officials should work to make voting easier and not more difficult for Georgia citizens,” Young added. “We are committed to protecting Georgia voters and will see the governor in court.”

In a statement, Tolulope Kevin Olasanoye, executive director of the Democratic Party of Georgia, called the signing “a slap on the back to MAGA conspiracy theorists like his lieutenant governor who refuse to accept President Biden won in 2020.”

SB 189 also requires all advance and absentee ballots to be counted within an hour of polls closing. It allows a political party’s presidential candidate to qualify for Georgia’s ballot if they have secured access in at least 20 other states or territories.

“Although there is always more work to be done, our new laws will ensure even more accuracy, safety, and transparency,” Kelly Loeffler, chairwoman of Greater Georgia and a former Republican U.S. senator, said in a statement. “On the eve of a presidential election, Georgians deserve to have confidence that – despite the best efforts of liberal activists in our courts, our media, and our federal government – their votes will count.”

Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger lauded the measure and promised to push for funding for the new requirements.

“Georgia is already a national leader in election integrity and security, and we congratulate Gov. Kemp and the General Assembly on the passage of the additional election integrity measures contained in this bill,” Raffensperger said in a statement to The Center Square. “As my office continues to lead on ensuring free, fair, and accurate elections, I look forward to working with the General Assembly and Georgia counties next session to make sure that the changes the legislature put in place are fully funded.”