Georgia’s Election Integrity Act – Voter Suppression or Election Integrity?

Georgia’s Election Integrity Act of 2021 was signed into law on March 25, making multiple changes to the state’s election laws. The enactment of the law caused national controversy, with CNN saying the bill would restrict voting access, under a big banner that reads, “Voting Rights Under Attack.”

Rachel Maddow called the act a “voter suppression law” that will “make it harder to vote.” MSNBC described it as a “staggering bill that undoes much of what constitute free and fair elections in the state of Georgia.”

On the flip side, The Daily Wire labeled the legislation a “massive election integrity bill” which “seeks to tighten up elections and reduce fraud.” The Wire stated that much of the criticism focused on “wildly unsubstantiated and hyperbolic comparisons to Jim Crow policies or specific cynical mischaracterizations of the bill.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Editorial Board said, “The public debate on Georgia’s new voting law has become a stew of falsehood, propaganda and panic.” The Journal blamed the fracas on partisan distortions, echoed by the media, and “CEOs of major companies who are uninformed at best or cowardly at worst.”

The Journal is referring to how activist groups pressured major corporations to stand against the act. Major League Baseball (MLB) announced it was moving its annual All-Star Game out of Atlanta because of the election legislation, with Commissioner Rob Manfred saying, “Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box.” 

National Review published an article calling MLB’s actions “cowardly.” Isaac Shorr, the author, opined, “Manfred doesn’t state what the MLB’s problems with the bill are because he either can’t or is embarrassed to have to articulate them out loud.”

Delta Airlines and Coca-Cola, with headquarters in Atlanta, issued statements opposing the “unacceptable” law, as some consumers threatened boycotts. CNBC reported that other companies have now followed suit, including Porsche, UPS, Mercedes-Benz, Home Depot and JPMorgan Chase.

Hans Von Spakovsky is a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies. He manages the foundation’s Election Law Reform Initiative. In an interview with Dr. Ben Carson, he said, “You have to have both access and security” in elections.

“You want to be sure that every eligible American is able to get to the polls and is able to vote, but if their vote is then diluted or stolen because of a fraudulent vote or because of mistakes and errors made by election officials and others, it’s in essence the same as their not being able to vote at all,” he added.

Von Spakovsky said election fraud does occur, citing the Supreme Court decision in 2008 in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, upholding an Indiana law requiring voters to present a photo ID when voting in person. Justice Stevens wrote that the “flagrant examples of [voter] fraud [that] have been documented throughout this Nation’s history by respected historians and journalists…demonstrate that not only is the risk of voter fraud real but that it could affect the outcome of a close election.” 

He also pointed to The Heritage Foundation’s Election Fraud Database, which lists more than 1,300 proven instances of voter fraud across the U.S.

So what does Georgia’s new election law actually do? How does it affect access and election integrity? The legislation is long, almost 100 pages. Here are some of the key components:

  • Voters must provide their driver’s license or identification card number to request a mail-in ballot.
  • Third party groups must identify themselves when they send absentee ballot request forms to potential voters.
  • Absentee ballots may be requested without providing a reason, are due 11 days before the election, and will be processed earlier.
  • The bill maintains 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. voting on election day. Those in line before 7;00 p.m. are still allwed to cast their ballots.
  • Requires at least 17 days of early voting.
  • Weekend voting was expanded, with two Saturdays of voting across the state. Counties may also hold votes on two Sundays.
  • Drop boxes for ballots will be permitted in early voting locations and only during business hours. Until the 2020 election, the state did not even have drop boxes.
  • Counties must certify election results within six days.
  • Because a first-time candidate ordered pizzas for folks standing in line at the polls in 2018, the bill prohibits giving away food or drink within 150 feet of a polling place. The measure allows poll managers to distribute water.
  • Voters who arrive at the wrong polling station before 5:00 p.m. on election day will not be given a provisional ballot but must drive to the correct location.
  • Instead of holding runoff elections nine weeks after the general election, as happened in Senate races this year, the runoff will be held four weeks after the election.

Georgia’s not the only state working to increase election security. As a result of the last few rounds of contentious elections, “legislators have introduced 361 bills with restrictive provisions in 47 states (their emphasis),” reports the left-leaning Brennan Center for Justice. The center defines restrictive as bills that “would make it harder for Americans to register, stay on the rolls, and/or vote, as compared to existing state law.”

Many other states are working to increase election access – possibly making elections less secure. The center says, “843 bills with expansive provisions have been introduced in a different set of 47 states (their emphasis).” The organization says, “Provisions are categorized as expansive if they would make it easier for Americans to register, stay on the rolls, and/or vote, as compared to existing state law.”

So why does all this matter? Why do we care about elections and their results? One of Focus on the Family’s foundation values has to do with “The Importance of Social Responsibility.” This is one of our six “pillars” for doing ministry and it states:

We believe that God has ordained the social institutions of family, church, and government for the benefit of mankind and as a reflection of His divine nature. Therefore, Christians are called to support these institutions, according to God’s design and purpose, and to protect them against destructive social influences.

Voting is one way for believers to demonstrate social responsibility. John Stonestreet, president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, writes that Jesus commands us, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” Mark 12:17, ESV. Because we live in a democratic republic, where we vote to choose our political representatives, he says voting is the most fundamental way we have to obey this command.

Stonestreet explains that voting is an opportunity to do good, and it can be a way that shows love for others – as we vote for candidates who promote justice, truth, life and freedom.

From school boards to the presidency, elections have consequences that affect almost every area of life, including whether or not the government will pay for aborting children, what kids are taught in school, having the freedom to live out our faith, what laws are enforced to keep communities safe and which judges are appointed to the courts. That’s why election accessibility and integrity are both important.

Related articles and resources:

Read Georgia’s  Election Integrity Act of 2021

The Heritage Foundation:

The Facts About Election Integrity and the Need for States to Fix Their Election Systems

How To Restore Faith in Our Federal Elections

The New York Times Can’t Get Basic Facts Right on Election Reform

9 Election Reforms States Can Implement to Prevent Mistakes and Vote Fraud

Why (and How) Christians Should Vote

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