The Republican speaker of the Georgia state House is not happy that election officials are making it easier for residents to vote from home in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
The state is mailing every registered voter a form so that they can request an absentee ballot for the May 19 primary election. Voters will also be able to cast ballots in person on Election Day, as well as during the three weeks of early voting beginning on April 27, but the state is trying to make it easier for people to vote from afar.
David Ralston, the state House speaker, has deep concerns about this system, in part because the “possibilities of fraud are incredibly prevalent in this kind of voting,” as he said in an interview with the Georgia news site FetchYourNews. (See video below.)
“You don’t know who’s going to vote the ballot,” said Ralston, who wants to push back the date of the primary.
But he also admitted he doesn’t like the fact that absentee ballots will make it easier for people to vote ― and presumably increase turnout ― because that will hurt Republicans.
“The president said it best ― this will be extremely devastating to Republicans and conservatives in Georgia,” said Ralston.
“Every registered voter is going to get one of these. Now I ask you ... what was turnout in the primary back in 2018 or 2016. Was it 100%? No. No. It’s way, way, way lower. This will certainly drive up turnout,” he added.
President Donald Trump, as Ralston noted, has made similar comments.
In the coronavirus stimulus bill, Democrats pushed for more funding to increase absentee and vote-by-mail options. The final version of the legislation had $400 million for the effort, which was less than they originally wanted.
“The things they had in there were crazy,” Trump said in a Fox News interview last week. “They had things — levels of voting that, if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”
For years, Republicans have fought to make it harder to vote. They’ve cut back on polling locations and hours, restricted early voting, stopped automatic registration and imposed voter ID requirements.
Usually, they tried to justify these moves in the name of fairness and concerns about fraud.
But Ralston and Trump are admitting outright that if more Americans have a voice in the political process, Republicans will lose.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) opposed Democratic-sponsored legislation last year that would make Election Day a federal holiday ― meaning people could vote without having to take time off work. He called it a “political power grab” by Democrats.
A number of Republican legislators in Georgia want to delay the May 19 primary, but the governor and the secretary of state ― both Republicans ― say they don’t have the power to do so under emergency powers that last until April 13.
“If and when the governor extends the state of emergency,” said Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, “we can re-evaluate the situation and determine if moving the election is appropriate in light of the circumstances in order to best protect the health and safety of voters, election officials and poll workers.”
A number of other states have already pushed back their primary elections to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
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