Municipal Early Voting Reduction Bill Amended, Passes House
(APN) ATLANTA — On February 26, 2014, the full House of Representatives passed and adopted, as amended, HB 891, which allows over 500 municipalities of different sizes, across the State of Georgia, to decide whether to reduce their early voting period from seventeen days to six.
The bill passed 146 to 25.
As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, progressive activists were in an uproar over the possibility that the Legislature would cut short the voting period for municipal elections, after already shortening the early voting period in recent years.
Indeed, the Georgia House Government Affairs Committee originally passed a version that cut the early voting period from twenty one days to only six days for early voting, across the board.
However, an amendment to the bill allowed an opt-out option for cities that wish to keep the current seventeen day period, while allowing other cities to opt for a shorter early voting period.
This could save money for small towns, whose populations typically do not heavily use the full three weeks of early voting.
Four years ago the the early voting period was forty five days.
Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta) was pleased with the amendment.
“Legislation affecting voting rights must always preserve the greatest opportunities for voters,” Abrams said in a press release. “The amendment allows local governments and citizens to make the decision about what constitutes the most cost-efficient and effective option for their municipal-only elections without interfering with voter’s rights.”
Some House Democrats, however, were not supportive of the legislation, even as amended. Nay votes from the Metro Atlanta area included State Reps. Tyrone Brooks (D-Atlanta), Dee Dawkins-Haigler (D-Lithonia), Scott Holcomb (D-DeKalb), Margaret Kaiser (D-Atlanta), Rahn Mayo (D-Decatur), Howard Mosby (D-DeKalb), Pam Stephenson, and “Able” Mable Thomas (D-Atlanta).
Republicans are working hard to reduce early voting, purportedly to save money for small municipalities; but it is no secret that the fewer people who vote, the better the results are for Republicans.
HB 891 was sponsored by State Reps. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem), Andrew Welch (R-McDonough), Mark Hamilton (R-Cumming), Buzz Brockway (R-Lawrenceville), Bruce Williamson (R-Monroe), and Ben Harbin (R-Evans.)
With all the Republican-led voter suppression and reducing early voting bills around the country, many people are worried that HB 891 will reduce voter turnout, especially among minorities.
Although HB 891 only affects municipal elections and not this year’s midterm elections, local elections have a strong impact on people’s lives. Many people may not be aware of the changes and could miss out on voting for their city council representatives, mayors, or, in some cases, school board members.
The recent Supreme Court of the US ruling, striking down sections 4 and 5 of the the Voting Rights Act (VRA), made it easier for certain states like Georgia to change election rules in ways that could hurt racial minorities. Whereas previously, pre-clearance from the U.S. Department of Justice was required for election changes in states covered under VRA sections 4 and 5, now states like Georgia currently can move forward on changes without pre-clearance.