Georgia Election Integrity Legislation to Prohibit Private Funding of Election Administration, Limit Drop Boxes Moves Towards Passage

LAWRENCEVILLE, GA - NOVEMBER 16: Gwinnett County election workers handle ballots as part of the recount for the 2020 presidential election at the Beauty P. Baldwin Voter Registrations and Elections Building on November 16, 2020 in Lawrenceville, Georgia. Officials are hoping to finish the hand counting of ballots before the …
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Legislation to prohibit private funding of election administration and limit the number and location of drop boxes for the deposit of vote by mail absentee ballots is moving through key committees of the Georgia State Senate and the Georgia House of Representatives with just four legislative days left in the current session of the Georgia General Assembly.

Republicans have a majority in both houses of the Georgia General Assembly.

As Breitbart News reported earlier this month, “The Georgia House of Representatives passed HB 531 on March 1 in a 97 to 72 vote, and the Georgia State Senate passed SB 241 on March 8 in a 29 to 20 vote.” Another election integrity bill, SB 202, passed in the State Senate on March 8 on a 32 to 20 vote.

Both houses must pass the same election integrity bill before the current session of the Georgia General Assembly ends on March 31. Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, will then have 4o days to sign the legislation for it to become law.

On Monday, the Georgia General Assembly finished its 37th day of legislative session. By law, there are only four more days left in this session, as 11 Alive reported on Monday:

[L]awmakers have backed away from eliminating no excuse absentee balloting and from curbing Sunday voting. They may still back away from the earlier absentee ballot application.

Conversely, the Senate Ethics committee voted Monday to stick with reducing the number of absentee ballot boxes. The measure to replace local election officials also has continued GOP support.

Monday, a House committee approved a revised Senate bill that keeps intact no-excuse absentee voting, and Sunday early voting. “By providing for expanded weekend voting and enshrining drop boxes into law for the first time, we are making it easier to vote across our state,” GOP House speaker Rep. David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) said in a statement afterward.

Neither SB 241 nor SB 202 as passed by the State Senate originally include provisions to prohibit private funding of election administration, as the version of HB 531 passed by the House did.

But on Monday, the Senate Ethics Committee passed a version of HB 531 that included a more tightly worded prohibition of such private funding than the version passed earlier in the month by the House:

Section 8 (f) The board of registrars of each county shall prepare annually a budget estimate in which it shall set forth an itemized list of its expenditures for the preceding two years and an itemized estimate of the amount of money necessary to be appropriated for the ensuing year and shall submit the same at the time and in the manner and form other county budget estimates are required to be filed. No board of registrars shall take or accept any funding, grants, or gifts from any source other than from the governing authority of the county, the State of Georgia, or the federal government.”

As originally introduced in the House, HB 531 stated:

No superintendent shall take or accept any funding, grants, or gifts from any source other than from the governing authority of the county or municipality, the State of Georgia, or the federal government.

Phill Kline, executive director of the Amistad Project of the Thomas More Society, told Breitbart News that a bill passed earlier this month by the Arizona House of Representatives that prohibits the private funding of election administration is “far superior” to the Georgia bill currently under consideration because it does not permit an end run in which private funding could go first to the county authority and then to the board of registrars.

The current version of HB 531, as passed by the Senate Ethics Committee on Monday, and currently under consideration in the House Special Committee on Election Integrity, dramatically limits the number of drop boxes for the deposit of absentee vote by mail ballots and also limits their placement to voting locations in official government buildings:
(a) Any other provisions of this chapter to the contrary notwithstanding, the board of registrars may establish additional sites as additional registrar’s offices or places of registration for the purpose of receiving absentee ballots under Code Section 21-2-381 and  or the purpose of voting absentee ballots under Code Section 21-2-385, provided that any such site is a branch of the county courthouse, a courthouse annex, a government service center providing general government services, another government building generally accessible to the public, or a location that is used as an election day polling place, notwithstanding that such location is not a government building.  
(b)(1) A board of registrars or absentee ballot clerk shall establish at least one secure drop box as a means for absentee by mail electors to deliver their ballots to the board of registrars or absentee ballot clerk. A board of registrars or absentee ballot clerk may establish additional secure drop boxes, subject to the limitations of this Code section, but may only establish additional drop boxes totaling the lesser of either one drop box for every 100,000 active registered voters in the county or the number of advance voting  locations in the county. Any additional drop boxes shall be evenly geographically distributed in the county. Drop boxes established pursuant to this Code section shall be established at the office of the board of registrars or absentee ballot clerk or inside locations at which advance voting, as set forth in subsection (d) of Code  Section 21-2-385, is conducted in the applicable primary, election, or runoff and may be  open during the hours of advance voting at that location. (emphasis added)

Gov. Kemp has indicated general support for election integrity reforms but has not specifically stated he will sign the election integrity reform bill both houses of the Georgia General Assembly are likely to pass before the session ends on March 31.

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