On Monday, March 8, the Georgia General Assembly completed Crossover Day – the last day a bill can pass each chamber to be eligible for consideration in the other. We were in the Senate Chamber into the evening while debating on several bills including Senate Bill 241, omnibus election reform legislation. Below are some highlights on how SB 241 would change Georgia’s future elections:
♦ Directs the Attorney General to establish and maintain a telephone hotline for the use of electors to file complaints and allegations of voter intimidation and illegal election activities.
♦ The State Election Board members and Secretary of State staff would not have any authority to enter into any consent agreement addressing election issues without approval through a General Assembly joint resolution.
♦ Directs the Secretary of State to obtain and maintain a list with information regarding electors who may have moved to another state, died, or otherwise become ineligible to vote in Georgia.
♦ Establishes requirements and regulations for portable or movable polling facilities.
♦ Defines absentee electors, the ‘Official Absentee Ballot,’ and requirements to vote by absentee ballot.
♦ Any person applying for an absentee-by-mail ballot would make the application in writing or via a web application with these requirements: provide his or her name, date of birth, address as registered, address where the elector wishes the ballot to be mailed, and the elector’s Georgia driver’s license number or identification card number. For the web application, there must be a match with the elector’s name, date of birth, and Georgia driver’s license or identification card number.
Although these highlights and other issues are addressed within SB 241, there are key components that are missing from this attempt to make our elections safe, lawful and corruption free. To address qualifications of a new voting system, reimbursement of specific costs, ballot marking devices and in-person voting by paper ballots, I introduced Senate Bill 233. While the state did purchase the current system used for elections, I believe it is critical we make necessary legislative changes to ensure that future costs are not a burden on our local election offices and communities. This legislation has not received a hearing yet but that will not stop my work with Senate members and our colleagues in the House to include these key components in the version of election reform legislation that receives final passage.
As SB 241 and other election bills move through the legislative process over the remaining days of the session, I will keep you updated. In addition to a busy week with legislation and committee hearings, the administration made additional announcements on vaccination sites and eligibility groups. In addition to the current four mass vaccination sites, including the one in our region, six more mass sites will be operational. Along with expanding mass vaccination sites, the state also announced key dates for future eligibility groups:
March 8: Childcare program, Pre-K and K-12, private and public, staff and educators, adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their caregivers and parents of kids with complex medical conditions.
March 15: Georgians 55 years and up, and those with serious health conditions.
Beginning of April: All Georgians over the age of 16.
While these expansions are great news, appointments are based on vaccine supply, so the state asks for patience from all citizens as we make advancements against this pandemic. Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns regarding any legislation we have passed or the vaccine allocation process. My staff and I are always here to help.