State Rep. Tom Kirby on Senate Bill 202 Election Reforms

30
Mar

State Rep. Tom Kirby on Senate Bill 202 Election Reforms

State Representative Tom Kirby (R-Loganville) wrote a compelling piece about Senate Bill 202 on Facebook. It is reprinted here with his permission.

HERE IS A LINK TO THE ACTUAL LEGISLATION. DO NOT WORRY, READING THE BILL WILL NOT SUPPRESS YOUR VOTE.

I understand that some of you have some concerns about the election bill we passed in Georgia. I realize many of you are limited as to the news coverage you see about the bill. Let me walk you through the actual bill so you can make an informed decision.

To start with, the Democrats in Georgia lie. They don’t even try to be honest. We started in June 2020, 5 months BEFORE the election working on restoring the people’s confidence in our elections. Why you ask? Democrat Stacey Abrams has spent 2 years running all over the country telling everyone who would listen that the election was stolen from her. Despite the facts, the data, showing otherwise, the media loved to give her air time to push her false narrative. This did however plant the seeds of distrust in our elections. We have seen for years now, Democrats use feeling and emotions, while Republicans use facts and data.

This is also true with SB 202. You have heard “Jim Crow 2.0”, “voter suppression”, “Disenfranchise” and of course the democrats favorite, “Racist”. The bill is none of that, and it is easy to see. Let’s begin.

The first change in the bill (lines 171 – 178) requires the Attorney General to “establish and maintain” a telephone hotline so anyone can file a complaint of voter intimidation or illegal activities. It even recognizes these complaints if made anonymously. That appears to be contradictory to the “voter suppression” statements.

The next change the bill creates is changing the chairperson of the State Election Board. This is fairly long and is line 180 – 266. Prior to this, the Secretary of State was the chair of the State Board of Elections. We believe this role will better serve the citizens of Georgia if the Chairperson is not someone whose name is on the ballot. This position will be appointed and cannot be an elected official, a candidate or party operative. This change clearly address the accusations of the 2018 governor’s race being “stolen” as Brian kemp was Secretary of State. Don’t see this as oppressing any vote either.

Line 268 – 373 is where we say, “We’ve had enough of the same counties being on the news, every election with the same problems.” I know you have seen them yourself, as you have called and asked me, “What is going on there?” The County Board of Elections run the elections in Georgia. What this section says, if they consistently year after year have the same issues, then the State Board of Elections will be able to step in and fix them. Last October, the news showed and interviewed people standing in lines for hours to vote during early voting. The secretary of State kept sending messages, “We have more voting machines available, open up more precincts and or request more machines and we will get them to you. In fact 6 counties in Georgia did request and receive more machines, but none of them were the counties you saw on the news. It is attributed mostly to Einstein, “Doing the same thing the same way and expecting different results is insanity.” Here again, this is where problems voting have been identifies and gives an avenue to make it better and easier for all to vote. Any voter suppression there?

How much nonsense have we needed to deal with? Lines 378 – 410 give you some insight. The 2020 election was conducted in a pandemic and Georgia was operating under the Governor’s emergency declaration. Believe it or not, some wanted to challenge changes put in place to keep people safe during the pandemic, using several false arguments including the Administrative Procedures Act. In brief, that is the law that requires public hearing and notices and related items before changes are made to regulations. This section of the bill makes it clear, if we are under an emergency in the future, the Board of Elections may implement emergency rules and regulations to keep the people safe. Not some people but all the people of Georgia need to be kept safe.

A short section on lines 430-435 simply says, if you are the person running the election in your county, you cannot take money or gifts to do so from anyone. It is the government’s responsibility to supply the needed funding. There were some who said they needed “outside money, so we put in the law for the State Board of Elections to look at this and report back by October 2021. Not letting some outside group funnel a lot of money to run an election the way THEY want. Sounds more like getting rid of voter suppression.

Another short section on lines 440-454 deals with filling vacancies in the counties for the superintendent of elections. This gives that responsibility to either the probate judge or chief judge of the superior court for the county. In Georgia, our judges run non-partisan and also part of their oath is to remain non-partisan. One could argue, everyone has some partisan beliefs, but this is the best way to keep partisan politics out. And again has nothing to do with voter suppression or Jim Crow.

We continue in lines 473-479 to help elections run smoother. Here we allow “poll officers” to serve in their home county or in a neighboring county. Especially in some of our rural counties both parties have opportunities getting enough poll watchers for 3 weeks of early voting and Election Day and counting votes. Don’t think this will slow down voting for anyone either.
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There is a lot of new law being added on lines 484-541, perhaps this is where Democrats are seeing voter suppression? No, I don’t think so. This entire section allows for a performance review of a local election official to be requested. What a radical idea, if it appears the election official is not doing the job, the State Board of Elections can conduct a performance review. Now this is after the election occurs, so it has nothing to do with voter suppression or any of the other nonsense you have heard.

The short section on lines 546-553 deals with what happens if a candidate already on the ballot dies. What happens if they win or get in a runoff. Another section that has nothing to do with the dems narrative.

The next several sections contain a lot of current law, but have a few additions. These go from lines 555-694. Similar to the elections board, the board of Registrars cannot take money, grants or gifts from outside organizations. It allows for challenges and requires the any challenge to be heard in 10 days. No one will be able say someone should not be allowed to vote and let it languish for months until after an election. That too sounds like trying to make sure someone can vote who is legally registered to do so.

Lines 698 – 702 must surely be discriminatory. This states if the Secretary of State receives information that a person died or moved out of State, then they may be removed from the voter list. How can this be fair, is Georgia the only state that doesn’t allow dead people to vote?

Lines 721-734 surely must contain language that would cause the uproar we have heard from the left. No, it too is making it easier for voters. It says that if voters had to wait 1 hour or more in the previous election, then the county has to reduce the size of the precinct and open an additional one. That may be the secret plan. We move the voting location or open a new one to confuse the voters. No, we then read lines 750-755 were for 7 days before the election this information must be in the legal organ. It goes even further by requiring on election day a 4’ x 4’ sign be placed at the old polling location directing the voters to the new location. Making sure people know where to vote and reducing the wait times. How does that discourage voting?

Section 20 on lines 759-778 does not have too many changes to the law. It simply requires the counties to use the same criteria in selection of early voting locations as it does for election day polling places. It does allow for mobile voting locations, but only under declared emergencies. If it wasn’t so sad, I can hear the quacks saying , “Start the bus, we have a group of people coming we don’t want to vote.”

Huge change on line 786, this must be it. We are adding the name of the precinct on the ballot for the primary. Yes, in Georgia our precincts have both a name and a number. I vote in West Walton Precinct #422. I know most voters may not know their precinct name or number, they just know where they vote. But then we continue to line 862 adding the precinct name to other ballots. This is really radical stuff that could cause civilization to be overturned.

Yes, I am getting a little “snarky”, I would hope you are starting to wonder, “Where in the wide wide world of sports is this suppression and Jim Crow and Racism?”

Let’s look at section22, lines 864-876. Current law says 1 voting booth for each 250 electors in state-wide general elections. However, we added lines 870-876 clarifying the counties have the authority to add more if think they need them. They can use less, especially if early voting and mail in voting shows there are not that many voters remaining. Wow, here is the county allowed to run the election and state giving them what they need.

One of the most entertaining moments during the floor debate was listening to the Democrats argue against section 23 on lines 878-887. Other than the electronic military and overseas ballots, all ballots in Georgia will be printed on security paper. The ballot paper will have watermarks and other embedded things, like our currency and checks do now. No one will be able to photocopy a ballot and make more. Why would anyone, other than someone who wants to cheat and make more ballots, be against this? Once again it in no way limits anyone’s ability to vote.

Section 23A is another section about printing ballots and adds the requirement to print the name of the precinct on the top.

Finally section 24, lines 895-921 talks about voting machines, they must be the problem. Well no, this section requires a notice to be posted telling when the machines are going to be test to ensure they record votes accurately. These test allow for political parties, news media and even members of the public to attend and witness these test. Does that suppress any vote, I think not.

Let’s get serious for a minute. Lines 923-1151 deal with absentee voting. This is one area we constantly hear democrats complain about and throw around their key words of suppression and Jim Crow and the rest. Most of this addresses actual issues that occurred in the last several elections. This first is when you request an absentee ballot. Prior to this bill being passed, you could request an absentee ballot 6 months prior to an election and up to the Friday before the vote. This caused issues on both ends of the request dates. If you request an absentee ballot, then decide to vote in person, you must turn in the absentee ballot.
6 month before the election, we heard some lost them, some changed their mind and threw them away, some said they forgot they asked for one. The change we made puts in 78 days before the election. (11 weeks plus a Monday before the November general election).

As with most of the legislative process, this was derived by the information we received and appears to be about right. If this needs to be changed either way in the future, that should not be an issue. Before this bill, one could request an absentee ballot on the Friday before the election. We heard from the United States Postal Service on this. They testified 15 days should be the minimum to ensure the completed ballot was delivered in time to be counted. We thought that was too long and went with 11 day, adding a week to the current 4 days. Since the mail is staying mostly in the same county, we believe that should be adequate, but we know 4 days was not working and causing late ballots not to be counted. Yes, you read that correct, this is to ensure ballots are counted not rejected.

The second issue we had with absentee ballots was the “ridiculous” signature match requirement. I seriously doubt my signature today matches the one on my voter registration card signed over 20 years ago. The question is how to verify a voter’s eligibility for an absentee ballot. We decided to keep it simple so everyone can easily comply. The same identification used for in person voting will be used for absentee voting. The 2 most common are a driver’s license or a FREE State issued photo ID card. There are other government issued photo IDs allowed including military IDs that are all listed in the current law. However, for a driver’s license or state ID card, you do not need a photocopy; you only write the number on the appropriate place on the ballot. A driver’s license or state ID card contains all of the needed information to ensure you get the proper ballot for the location you live. If you use a different government issued ID such as a military ID, you do need to include a photocopy. The US Army won’t give the State access to their data base to confirm the information, nor should they. I want you to think about this for a minute. This is a common sense approach that gets rid of the “signature match” and says no matter how you vote in Georgia, you use the same ID. No more opinions on a signature throwing out a vote.

Lines 1153 – 120 we address in law for the first time Ballot Drop boxes. Georgia law states how absentee ballots may be returned. Before this bill was signed into law, drop boxes were not in the code and not allowed. However, under the emergency declaration, to protect our citizens, drop boxes were introduced in the 2020 election. Guess what, they work and make it easy for someone to place their absentee ballot in a drop box so we added them to the law. There are some details about the boxes including how opening should be designed to keep out liquids or anything one could try and put in them to damage ballots. We added into the law when and how ballots are to be securely retrieved. Then were should they be placed need to be answered. We came up with a radical idea, “Let’s put them at the polling places.” Nothing hidden, not trying to keep them away from anyone, Vote where you go to vote even if voting by absentee using a drop box. No line, no wait, no check in, just drop it in the box. We included having the boxes open during the times the polling place is open to vote. The polling place already has poll watches and poll officials to keep the drop boxes secure. Again adding the drop boxes into law makes it easier for all Georgians to vote. Without this section, drop boxes would have gone away once the emergency declaration is over. Tell me again how we are suppressing the vote.

Section 27 contains a few changes and a lot of current law wording. It does change the time for requesting an absentee ballot for a primary similar to the change for the general election. But I would encourage you to look at lines 1270-1276 we make sure a voter in the hospital can request an absentee ballot for a primary or an election up to and including on Election Day and that application shall be immediately processed. Another part of the bill where we are making sure every voter gets a chance to vote. The remain part of the section simply ask the voter to sign the ballot saying this is their vote and not someone voting for them and clears up who may help them vote if needed.

Starting on line 1392 is the “We want our Christmas back” part of the bill. I could not even enjoy a good Christmas movie that was constantly interrupted by political campaigns nonstop. For many decades are runoff elections occurred 4 weeks following the original election. Then a judge ruled that may not be enough time for the Military and Overseas ballots. So here we took a page from other states. For contested races that could end up in a run off, there will be an “order of Preference” ballot. This way the voter votes for their candidate, then can also vote in order who they want should there be a runoff. No need to reinvent the wheel, use what other states are already doing that works. Since this is a significant change, the section is long and goes to line 1444.

Lines 1456 – 1468 again add the language of using the same ID for absentee voting as in-person voting. Like many laws there is often the need to update many different code sections. This section of the bill also contains an important change starting on line 1488- 1518. This adds a second Saturday required during early voting. Yes that is correct, in our effort to “suppress votes” we are making all 159 counties in Georgia add, not just another day, but a Saturday for early voting. We still have 3 weeks of early voting now with 2 Saturdays required and still allow counties the choice if they want to have early voting on Sundays. We did not mandate Sunday voting as only 16 of the 159 counties had Sunday voting in November 2020 and only 6 counties had Sunday voting in the January 2021 runoff. Let them decide if Sunday voting works for them. Adding an addition day to vote, can anyone explain how that is voter suppression?

The remaining lines of section 28 add requirements for notifying the public about voting. Straight from line 1525; “… shall publish the dates, times and locations of the availability of advanced voting …” Another obvious attempt to suppress the vote?

Section 29 beginning on line 1560 has another code section of Georgia law that address using the same ID to vote absentee or in-person. Once you get through a lot of current law, you arrive at line 1657. Here we change when absentee votes can start being scanned in to the voting machine on the “third Monday prior to the Election Day”. Absentee ballots are scanned into a voting machine the same as in person voting ballots are scanned into the voting machine. Before this law, this could not be done until Election Day. The tabulation from the machine will not be done until after the polls close on Election Day, the same as all other voting machines. This is a long section as in contains a great deal of current law in the code section being changed and making this significant change to get votes scanned sooner requires a significant amount of change. Again, this section of the bill in no way suppresses anyone’s vote, but should allow for results to be known sooner.

Maybe we will find some suppression in section 30? No, this says the Secretary of State is authorized to inspect the audit during the 24 month retention period that records have to be maintained.

Section 31 came from an interesting discussion. The polls in Georgia close on Election Day at 7:00 pm. During some elections, some polls remained open citing different issues that caused delays. Now it has never been in question, that anyone in line to vote by 7:00 will be allowed to vote. But there were arguments that the polls remaining open longer were not covered in code. So we made it simple and gave the superior court judge the authority to do so. We did put in that the judge would issue a written order if the polls were going to stay open past 9:00 pm. This takes away any argument that polls staying open late are illegal and gives more people the ability to vote even if there was a problem at their polling location.

The next section should help voting and avoid issues at the polls. Beginning on line 1858 it requires poll watchers to go through training before they are allowed to be at the polls. Poll watchers are from the political parties and there to observe and verify the voting was fair. Getting them trained so they know what is allowed and what is not is a good thing. I see this as another win for the voters.

I started out very bluntly telling you Democrats in Georgia will Lie. There are several ways to lie, including having a convenient memory and leaving out details. Section 33 is one of those moments of forgetfulness. In the November election the Democrats led by Stacey Abrams and her Fair Fight group set up food trucks and food pantries at polling places. One was describe to be reminiscent of Disney where you walk through the gift shop after the ride. Here, you went to the food bank and received can goods and non-perishables after voting. In Georgia, outside of 150’ from the polling place, they can do what they want. Inside of 150’ there is no campaigning. That is why I have a 200’ tape measure so no campaign signs are too close to the building. I am not even allowed to wear a name tag within 150” of a polling place when I vote.

If you want to disagree with me, go ahead, but if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck… These food giveaways were buying votes. That should not happen.

It was comical that the democrats tried to spin this to say, “Poor grandmother cannot be given a bottle of water while standing in line for hours to vote.” That is why we added line 1888 making it very clear that coolers of water may be place along the voting lines. Don’t forget, we are doing everything we can to prevent the ridiculously long lines we have seen in some counties, but just in case, here is some water.

Section 34 starting on line 1890 is the “Yea, we know its Atlanta by the traffic” section.

If my memory serves me correctly, I have voted in 5 different states in my lifetime. At the time I voted in each of those states, you had to vote in your correct precinct. Not now in Georgia. Here is what this section does.

If you show up to vote in a precinct other than your own, the polling officials are required to inform you where your precinct is. There is an exception if it is after 5:00 pm and before the polls close.

Let’s say you didn’t vote absentee, you didn’t early vote in-person, you decided you would vote on Election Day and stop after work to do so. Unfortunately there was a wreck on 285. You cannot make it to your polling place before the polls close, but there is one, in your county, you can make it too. After 5:00 and before the polls close you will be allowed to vote “out of precinct”. Let me state that again. You WILL be ALLOWED to VOTE out of precinct. This does cause some issues on the down ballot. Your school board member, county commissioners, even your state Rep may not be on the ballot where you are voting. Our system is not set up for that, perhaps in the future, but not now. Suppressing the vote by allowing someone to vote out of precinct, how?

Sections 35 – 37 add to the law changes to posting and reporting requirements after the election. The greatest impact is found in section 37 beginning on line 2060. If removes all of the language allowing for the counting to be stopped and then restarted on another day. Now, once the count starts it shall continue until it is complete. I cannot see how that is suppressing the vote, can you?

Section 38 is another code section where adding the precinct name is required. We cover this every code section of the law the same.
Section 39 simply addresses how to count a ballot that is torn, bent or otherwise defective so the machine cannot count it. And guess what, they prepare a “duplicate” ballot that can be processed, so again every vote is counted.

Section 40 is just cleaning up the language in current law stating on line 2162 that the votes will be counted “following the close of the polls …” This may seem like it is extremely detailed, and it is.

Section 41 is another section of the code where we clarify, counting the vote starts after the polls close and goes until it is complete. Line 2188 makes it clear that includes absentee votes, advance votes and election day votes Line 2209 changes when the count has to be reported to the Monday following the vote..

Section 42 is an additional part of the code section dealing with a runoff should no candidate receive a majority of the votes cast. With the changes made to include the order of preference for overseas and military ballots, we return to the 4 week runoff and this section cleans up the language to reflect that.

Section 43 does make some changes to special elections. Now this allows for the same equipment to be used if a special election is taking place as the same time as a general election or primary. Some might recall my own special election in 2012. The runoff was held on the same day as the Presidential Primary. However, they were 2 different election and 2 different sets of voting machines had to be used. You may recalled you went to the polling place, showed your ID and then voted in the first election, then went to a second table and repeated the same process to vote in the other election. This makes it easier to just vote once. Not a big deal but another small thing to make it easier to vote.

Section 44 is only when there is a special and general at the same time. In the last election, there was a special election to fill the unexpired term of the late John Lewis. At the same time the general election was being held for the new term for that congressional seat. This section just puts them both on the ballot in the correct place.

Section 45 ends the infamous “jungle primary”. In Georgia, the Governor appoints someone to temporarily fill a vacancy in the US Senate. Governor Kemp appointed Kelly Loeffler. The appointment is only until the next schedule general election. In this case it was the November election. Special elections in Georgia have always been non-partisan elections and everyone ran in the race together. That is why we had 21 candidates on the ballot in November in this one race. This section changes to where we will have a special primary to choose the candidates from each party for the special general election.
Section 46 clarifies for all 159 counties that should a vacancy in the courts occur, the Governor will appoint the temporary successor and details how long the appointment will last.

Section 47 adds that one cannot “accept” a ballot to be cast in any means other than those listed in code. This removes any coercion to force someone to give up their ballot.

Section 48 is maintaining the privacy of the voting booth. No matter how you vote, your vote is your vote and it shall remain private.

Section 49 allows cities to re-draw their districts following the census before the next vote as long as there is a least 120 before the vote. We are not expecting final census numbers until this fall, so this could impact cities in November. People need to know which district they are in and who is running to represent them. If there is not enough time, then section 49 has it delayed until the next election cycle.

Section 50 adds language that if we are under a state of emergency again, and the State elections board needs to make some emergency rules, they need to notify the General Assembly at least 20 days prior to it taking effect and gives us the ability suspend it if there is an issue.

Finally Section 51 says a scanned ballot image is a public record and subject to disclosure.

I know this is long, but the bill is long. We want to make sure every legal vote is counted and no illegal votes are cast or counted. We want to restore the people’s faith in our election process by giving them secure and fair elections with accurate counts. I encourage anyone to actually read the bill and you too will see the summary I wrote matches the bill. If you are not familiar with the way a bill reads; anything new is underlined, anything being removed is lined out, plain text is existing law.

Democrat 101, If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it. But the bill is easy to read gives you the truth.

You can read the bill for yourself by going to the House of Representatives Web site, looking under legislation search for SB 202.

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