Elections Bill Clears General Assembly in Final Hour of ’24 Session

Dave Williams

Monday, April 1st, 2024

Capitol Beat is a nonprofit news service operated by the Georgia Press Educational Foundation that provides coverage of state government to newspapers throughout Georgia. For more information visit capitol-beat.org.

The Republican-controlled General Assembly approved sweeping changes in Georgia’s election laws early Friday, one of the final actions of this year’s legislative session.

The state House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 189 101-73, with the Senate adopting the bill a short time later 33-22. Both votes fell along party lines.

The legislation cobbled together a series of election-reform bills that were introduced separately earlier in the 2024 session. Some of the provisions were not controversial, including the elimination of QR codes from paper ballots – which tended to confuse voters – and tightening the chain of custody of ballots on Election Day.

But other parts of the bill drew fire from legislative Democrats, who accused Republicans of suppressing the vote by making it easier for citizens to challenge voters’ eligibility. Mass challenges have been filed in some Georgia counties in recent years, gumming up the operations of local elections offices with meritless challenges, the vast majority of which ended up being dismissed.

“I can’t believe we’re still bending over to accommodate election deniers and conspiracy theorists,” said Rep. Saira Draper, D-Atlanta. “There’s a very vocal minority out there who will never be satisfied with our elections if they didn’t win.”

Republicans countered that ensuring “clean” voter rolls will provide the election integrity voters want.

“We’ve taken steps to give Georgians confidence in our elections,” House Speaker Jon Burns, R-Newington, told reporters shortly after lawmakers adjourned the 2024 legislative session just before 1 a.m. Friday.

The bill now goes to GOP Gov. Brian Kemp, who is expected to sign it.

In other action on the final day of the ’24 session, lawmakers passed a Republican-backed measure  requiring local law enforcement agencies to cooperate with federal immigration authorities by notifying the U.S. Department of Homeland Security when they have a suspected illegal immigrant in custody. Those that don’t comply would face the loss of state funds.

The General Assembly also gave final passage in the wee hours Friday morning to legislation doubling the state’s homestead tax exemption to $4,000 and protecting teenagers from cyberbullying and other negative effects of social media, a top priority of Lt. Gov. Burt Jones.