Georgia House Passes Sweeping Bill to Restrict Voting


The Georgia House of Representatives on Thursday passed a sweeping bill to limit voting access in the state, clearing a major hurdle in the Republican-led effort to rewrite many of the state’s voting regulations after the 2020 election.

The bill imposes stricter voter identification requirements, limits drop boxes, strips the secretary of state of some authority, imposes new oversight of county election boards, restricts who can vote with provisional ballots, and makes it a crime to offer food or water to voters waiting in lines.

However, the bill did not include some of the harshest restrictions that had been introduced in its earlier versions, like a ban on Sunday voting that had been seen as an attempt to curtail the role of Black churches in driving turnout. And the bill now, in fact, expands early voting options in some areas. No-excuse absentee voting, in which voters do not have to provide a rationale for casting a ballot by mail, also remains in place, though new restrictions such as providing a state-issued identification card have been placed on the process.

While the passage of the bill in the House, in a 100-to-75 vote along party lines, was a major step toward the desk of Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, it still needs to go back to the State Senate for what is known as an “agreement” vote on the amendments added in the House.

Representative Zulma Lopez, whose district on the outskirts of Atlanta contains a majority of voters of color, said the bill would have an outsize impact on voters of color. In her district, she said, the number of drop boxes would be reduced to nine from 33. This was partly the result, she said, of Democrats’ being excluded from discussions.

“Close to 2.5 million Democrats voted in the general election in 2020,” Ms. Lopez said. “Yet Democrats in this House were left out of any meaningful input into the drafting of this bill.”

Alan Powell, a Republican representative from northeast Georgia, defended the bill, saying it would bring needed uniformity to an electoral system that was pushed to the brink last year.

“The Georgia election system was never made to be able to handle the volume of votes that it handled,” he said. (Multiple audits affirmed the results of Georgia’s elections last year, and there were no credible reports of any fraud or irregularities that would have affected the results.) “What we’ve done in this bill in front of you is we have cleaned up the workings, the mechanics of our election system.”

“Show me the suppression,” Mr. Powell said. “There is no suppression in this bill.”

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