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Controversy Brews: Georgia GOP Moves to Halt Automatic Voter Registration!


CNS NewsRepublican lawmakers want to turn off Georgia’s automatic voter registration, which has registered almost all eligible citizens. Senate Bill 221 would require driver’s license holders to opt into voter registration, was advanced by the Senate Ethics Committee on Thursday. They automatically register unless they opt-out.

The bill also makes it easier to challenge voters based on where they live, which could allow Republican activists who view the state’s voting lists as bloated and fraudulent to remove thousands of voters. Georgia is expected to be a competitive state in this year’s presidential election, and GOP grassroots activists continue to support Donald Trump’s discredited claims that his 2020 Georgia loss was fraud.

The Center for Election Innovation and Research found that 98% of voting-eligible voters were active in 2020, up from 78% in 2016 when the state began registering people at driver’s license offices unless they declined. In 2022, the share dropped to 92%, which the center considered normal for a non-election year.

Republicans say the system gives election officials too much work and creates duplicate registrations when someone registers again without matching a record. “The intent is certainly not to reduce voter registration, the intent is to clarify and make voter registration more accurate,” Sylvania Republican Senate Ethics Committee Chairman Max Burns said.

Some Republicans believed that young people who aren’t interested in voting should have to ask to register. Do we just get a lot of people on the rolls and then purge them two or three years later because 90% never voted? asked Dahlonega Republican Senate Majority Leader Steve Gooch.

Due to a decrease in verified information to the secretary of state, election officials warned that the move would make Georgia’s voting rolls less accurate. State Elections Director Blake Evans reported that 11% of registrations were flagged for problems based on potential movement before automatic registration, compared to 4% after.

“We would see more people voting in the wrong precincts and contests for the wrong candidates because we would not get that information so consistently,” Evans said. Since the state’s driver’s license system required voters to opt in for 15 months starting in 2021, opponents predicted a sharp drop in registrations.

“I think that incident is so important to understand because it is a view into the future of what this bill would do if it was implemented,” said Atlanta Democrat Rep. Saira Draper. “That caused a massive drop in voter registrations.” The measure states that registering to vote in another state or locality changes residence.

Controversy Brews: Georgia GOP Moves to Halt Automatic Voter Registration!

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It lets registrars check the USPS national change of address list or commercial data to verify claimed residence. The county could hire EagleAI, a Georgia company that claims to have private voter registration data to void improper registrations.

The measure also states that a county election board can uphold challenges to a voter’s registration by other citizens if the voter has registered to vote in a different jurisdiction, registered for a homestead exemption in a different jurisdiction, has a missing or invalid birth date, address, or post office box. Some provisions may unintentionally cause voters problems. Some voters have 1900 birth years in state records due to data entry errors.

Controversy Brews: Georgia GOP Moves to Halt Automatic Voter Registration!

With State Election Board approval, counties could hold paper ballot elections. That could allow jurisdictions to abandon the state’s electronic ballot marking system, as Republican activists want. The measure removes language about emergency paper ballots, which Draper said could cause issues.

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