Georgia’s June 9th primary election was marred by several substantial issues regarding both absentee ballots and in-person voting. Georgia voters have urged the Secretary of State and the Georgia General Assembly to take action to ensure that massive failures from the June 9 primary election don’t repeat in November. But instead of using lessons learned from these failures to make voting easier and safer for Georgians, SB 463 as it stands today only makes matters worse. Despite the unprecedented absentee ballot turnout in June and the continuing rise of new COVID-19 cases in Georgia, SB 463 prohibits the Secretary of State and county elections officials from proactively taking steps to improve access to voting by mail. We call on members of the General Assembly to reject SB 463, which does nothing more than play politics with people’s lives.
Does not address failures to timely process absentee ballot requests before the November election. Instead of requiring the Secretary of State to immediately build an online portal that better tracks and more quickly processes absentee ballot requests, SB 463 delays the implementation of this online tool to July 1, 2021.
There was record absentee ballot turnout in June after the Secretary of State proactively mailed applications to active Georgia voters in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. SB 463 prohibits the Secretary of State and all county boards of elections from taking this proactive measure. This provision would also hamstring county elections officials from taking measures to better serve the specific needs of their communities. For example, it would ban Gwinnett County from mailing Spanish language absentee ballot applications to Limited English Proficient (LEP) voters even though it is required to run all elections bilingually in English and Spanish.
Does nothing to address the backlog of absentee ballot applications. The House Governmental Affairs Committee rejected an amendment that would make it easier for voters to receive absentee ballots for an entire election cycle. Specifically, the amendment would give voters the option of submitting one request upfront to receive an absentee ballot for a primary, any subsequent primary run-off, the general election, and any general election run-off.
Does nothing to ensure voters are timely notified of changes in their polling locations. We know that changes in polling locations occur in every election, but the risk of last-minute changes is even higher because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, the House Governmental Affairs Committee refused to add language to SB 463 that would require that voters be notified by phone call or text message (in addition to mail) when their polling location changes less than seven days from Election Day.
• Speaker David Ralston
• Speaker Pro-Tempore Jan Jones
• Majority Leader Jon Burns
• Majority Whip Trey Kelley
• Rep. Matt Hatchett
• Rep. Micah Gravley
• Rep. Bruce Williamson
• Rep. Mark Newton
• Minority Leader Bob Trammell
• Minority Whip William Boddie
• Rep. Richard Smith
• Rep. James Beverley
• Rep. Erica Thomas
• Rep. Kimberly Alexander
• Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick
“My name is [NAME] and I live in [HOME CITY]. I am calling/writing to express my concerns about SB463. Georgia voters have repeatedly and vocally urged the Secretary of State and Georgia General Assembly to ensure that failures and lessons learned from the June 9th Primary Election do not repeat themselves this November at the major election. However, our voices have not been heard. SB 463 does not make any legitimate and substantial improvements to Georgia’s voting system ahead of the November election. Specifically, the bill does not improve access to absentee ballots, nor does it alleviate concerns about in-person voting during a pandemic.
As the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly spreads, Georgia voters need improved access to voting for the major November election. Georgia lawmakers should be working on ways to improve accountability, consistency, and proper management in our elections system. But instead, through SB 463, they will delay the deadline to make an online portal for requesting, tracking, and processing absentee ballots to July 1st, 2021. SB 463 also bans the Secretary of State and county election officials from proactively sending their constituents absentee ballot requests. This will prevent counties from using their own discretion to help their communities safely participate in the election. Additionally, the House Governmental Affairs committee rejected an amendment to SB 463 that would have streamlined the absentee ballot request process by giving voters the option of submitting one request upfront to receive absentee ballots for all following elections in the current cycle. The House Governmental Affairs committee also refused an amendment that would require additional communication to voters in case of precinct changes through phone and text. They are actively working against measures which would ensure that voters are timely notified of polling location changes.
In conclusion, Georgia lawmakers have consciously prevented SB 463 from making any meaningful changes that would increase access to voting before the November election. We call on members of the General Assembly to reject SB 463 because it fails to address and alleviate significant issues.