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What Georgia’s Voting Law Really Does

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Page 72: Poll hours at a precinct may be extended only by order of a judge of the superior court of the county in which the precinct is located upon good cause shown by clear and convincing evidence that persons were unable to vote at that precinct during a specific period or periods of time. Poll hours shall not be extended longer than the total amount of time during which persons were unable to vote at such precinct. Any order extending poll hours at a precinct beyond 9 p.m. shall be by written order with specific findings of fact supporting such extension.

This is a small change, but it could have a significant impact on whether voting hours can be extended in the event of a problem.

Previously, a judge could order that a precinct stay open for as long as necessary based on a problem that had hindered voting (for example, if power went out for 30 minutes, the judge could add an hour of balloting at the end of the day). The new provision requires any relief period to match exactly the amount of time that people were unable to vote.

Georgia is no stranger to Election Day mishaps and problems. Its primary last June was marred by hourslong lines caused by malfunctioning machines. Some precincts had no choice but to ask every voter to file a provisional ballot. Other precincts stayed open later into the night.

Under the new law, if similar election problems were to occur, voters who had to leave would have less time to come back later.

Page 65: Beginning at 8 a.m. on the third Monday prior to A̶f̶t̶e̶r̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶o̶p̶e̶n̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶p̶o̶l̶l̶s̶ ̶o̶n̶ the day of the primary, election, or runoff, t̶h̶e̶ ̶r̶e̶g̶i̶s̶t̶r̶a̶r̶s̶ ̶o̶r̶ ̶a̶b̶s̶e̶n̶t̶e̶e̶ ̶b̶a̶l̶l̶o̶t̶ ̶c̶l̶e̶r̶k̶s̶ election superintendent shall be authorized to open the outer oath envelope o̶n̶ ̶w̶h̶i̶c̶h̶ ̶i̶s̶ ̶p̶r̶i̶n̶t̶e̶d̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶o̶a̶t̶h̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶e̶l̶e̶c̶t̶o̶r̶ of absentee ballots that have been verified and accepted i̶n̶ ̶s̶u̶c̶h̶ ̶a̶ ̶m̶a̶n̶n̶e̶r̶ ̶a̶s̶ ̶n̶o̶t̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶d̶e̶s̶t̶r̶o̶y̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶o̶a̶t̶h̶ ̶p̶r̶i̶n̶t̶e̶d̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶r̶e̶o̶n̶;̶ ̶p̶r̶o̶v̶i̶d̶e̶d̶,̶ ̶h̶o̶w̶e̶v̶e̶r̶,̶ ̶t̶h̶a̶t̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶r̶e̶g̶i̶s̶t̶r̶a̶r̶s̶ ̶o̶r̶ ̶a̶b̶s̶e̶n̶t̶e̶e̶ ̶b̶a̶l̶l̶o̶t̶ ̶c̶l̶e̶r̶k̶ ̶s̶h̶a̶l̶l̶ ̶n̶o̶t̶ ̶b̶e̶ ̶a̶u̶t̶h̶o̶r̶i̶z̶e̶d̶ ̶t̶o̶remove the contents of such outer envelope,̶ ̶o̶r̶ ̶t̶o̶ open the inner envelope marked ‘Official Absentee Ballot,’ e̶x̶c̶e̶p̶t̶ ̶a̶s̶ ̶o̶t̶h̶e̶r̶w̶i̶s̶e̶ ̶p̶r̶o̶v̶i̶d̶e̶d̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶t̶h̶i̶s̶ ̶C̶o̶d̶e̶ ̶s̶e̶c̶t̶i̶o̶n̶ and scan the absentee ballot using one or more ballot scanners.

At least three persons who are registrars, deputy registrars, poll workers, or absentee ballot clerks must be present before commencing; and three persons who are registrars, deputy registrars, or absentee ballot clerks shall be present at all times while the o̶u̶t̶e̶r̶ absentee ballot envelopes are being opened and the absentee ballots are being scanned. A̶f̶t̶e̶r̶ ̶o̶p̶e̶n̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶o̶u̶t̶e̶r̶ ̶e̶n̶v̶e̶l̶o̶p̶e̶s̶,̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶b̶a̶l̶l̶o̶t̶s̶ ̶s̶h̶a̶l̶l̶ ̶b̶e̶ ̶s̶a̶f̶e̶l̶y̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶s̶e̶c̶u̶r̶e̶l̶y̶ ̶s̶t̶o̶r̶e̶d̶ ̶u̶n̶t̶i̶l̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶t̶i̶m̶e̶ ̶f̶o̶r̶ ̶t̶a̶b̶u̶l̶a̶t̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶s̶u̶c̶h̶ ̶b̶a̶l̶l̶o̶t̶s̶.̶

However, no person shall tally, tabulate, estimate, or attempt to tally, tabulate, or estimate or cause the ballot scanner or any other equipment to produce any tally or tabulate, partial or otherwise, of the absentee ballots cast until the time for the closing of the polls on the day of the primary, election, or runoff except as provided in this Code section.

One key factor in how widely Mr. Trump and his allies were able to spread falsehoods about the 2020 election was that it took more than two weeks for news outlets to declare that President Biden had won Georgia. With such a long delay, Republicans successfully sowed doubts about the election’s validity by baselessly arguing that fraud must have taken place.

Georgia Republicans’ new voting law does allow the absentee ballot counting process to begin much earlier, with local clerks allowed to open and inspect absentee ballots three weeks before an election.

Still, no ballots can be counted until the polls close, meaning the process of tabulating and reporting vote totals is likely to be lengthy for high-turnout contests. That could lead future candidates to follow Mr. Trump’s lead in trying to contest the results of a legitimate election.

Page 18: No superintendent shall take or accept any funding, grants, or gifts from any source other than from the governing authority of the county or municipality, the State of Georgia, or the federal government. The State Election Board shall study and report to the General Assembly a proposed method for accepting donations intended to facilitate the administration of elections and a method for an equitable distribution of such donations state wide by October 1, 2021.

Last year, as election officials faced countless challenges trying to hold voting during a pandemic, funding for the November general election became tied up in the political debate over the second stimulus package.

Many local election jurisdictions in Georgia and other states, particularly those in poorer urban areas, turned to outside philanthropic groups like the Center for Tech and Civic Life, a nonprofit organization funded by Mark Zuckerberg that helped counties pay for their elections in 2020. Now Georgia has eliminated that option.

Conspiracy theories in right-wing circles have long focused on the specter of nefarious outsiders swaying election operations with donations; the theories often involve anti-Semitic falsehoods about George Soros, the billionaire liberal donor, who is also Jewish.

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