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These states are about to make it a lot harder to vote by mail

Efforts to suppress the vote after Donald Trump’s loss are racing through GOP-run state legislatures.

By Emily Singer - February 17, 2021
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Voters line up.

Bills that would make it harder to vote by mail have advanced in state legislatures in Georgia and Florida, bringing GOP efforts to suppress the vote in response to Donald Trump’s loss in the 2020 presidential election closer to fruition.

In Georgia, a bill that sets strict limits on who can vote by mail cleared a state Senate subcommittee on Wednesday, bringing it one step closer to passage.

If the bill becomes law, as is likely in the Republican-controlled legislature, only people over the age of 75, those with disabilities, and people who are out of town would be able to vote by mail. That would mark a major change for Georgia, which has had no-excuse absentee voting since 2005, when it was introduced by a Republican-led Legislature under Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue.

In Florida, a state Senate committee on Tuesday advanced a bill that would eliminate the state’s permanent absentee voting list, the Miami Herald reported. The bill would require voters to sign up each year for an absentee ballot, rather than opt to automatically get their ballots by mail in every election.

The change could significantly impact the number of people who vote by mail in the state, in which nearly 4.8 million voters cast absentee ballots in 2020, according to the New York Times — a record. It’s being criticized as a partisan attempt to make it harder for Democrats to vote; Democrats cast roughly 600,000 more absentee ballots than Republicans in the 2020 general election, according to the Miami Herald.

These are just two of the 165 bills and counting that Republicans have introduced in state legislatures across the country to restrict voting access after Trump’s loss in 2020. Restricting access to easy methods of voting could significantly impact minority voters, who already face longer lines at the polls due to existing suppression tactics, experts say.

Trump and his GOP defenders waged war on voting by mail even before voting in the 2020 election began, when governors and state legislatures across the country supported absentee balloting as a way to make it safer to vote during the COVID-19 pandemic. Trump and the GOP made claims that voting by mail was fraudulent and that it benefited Democrats at the expense of Republicans, both of which have been shown to be false.

Based on their lies, Trump and Republicans tried to block states from expanding the use of absentee ballots and to make it harder for voters to return them where they were used.

The efforts failed. Trump and the Republican Party lost numerous lawsuits filed before the election in attempts to restrict the use of absentee ballots and more after Election Day as dozens of judges across the country tossed the Trump team’s challenges of voting results.

The 2020 election was declared a resounding success by election officials across the country, who oversaw record turnout even in the midst of the pandemic. The election was not marred by fraud, and was even declared “the most secure in American history” by the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

But rather than viewing more voter participation as a good thing, Republicans have lied about voter fraud and worked to curtail voting rights since the election.

“I don’t get why now, when it’s been working,” state Sen. Randolph Bracy said at a hearing on the Florida legislation on Tuesday, according to the Miami Herald. “I mean it looks like there’s an effort to try to get a strategic advantage. Knowing that Democrats overwhelmingly vote by mail, the motivation of the measure is partisan.”

The passage of bills like these is likely to lead to protracted legal battles about voting rights. Voting rights advocates have promised to take legal action if they become law.

“If Georgia Republicans think that they are going to restrict the franchise and roll back voting rights, and particularly do so in a way that is targeted at Black, brown, and young voters, they have another thing coming,” voting rights advocate and lawyer Marc Elias told the Georgia Recorder earlier this month. “We will see them in court and we will win.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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