'A gift to MAGA election deniers': New Georgia law requires absentee ballots to be counted, reported on Election Night

A new voting reform bill in Georgia, just signed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, would require all absentee ballots to be tabulated and the results reported on Election Night.

On Monday, Kemp signed SB 189, which makes several significant changes to Georgia’s election procedures. The bill removed some possible conflicts of interest between the secretary of state, the state Board of Elections, and those involved with counting ballots; compels homeless residents to list their county register’s office as their mailing address; prevents voters from using a P.O. box or private mailbox service as proof of residency; and requires individuals who have voted or registered to vote in another state or district to re-register in their original district before they will be allowed to cast a ballot there, WSBTV.com reported.

“Public confidence in elections is paramount to keeping civil order and facilitating transfers of power from one party to another.”

The bill also explicitly requires all absentee ballots to be counted and reported within one hour of the polls closing on Election Day:

All absentee ballots that have been verified and accepted … by the Monday prior to the day of the primary, election, or runoffshall be tabulated and the results reported by no later than 8:00 P.M. on the day of such primary, election, or runoff or within one hour of the closing of all polls in such county, whichever occurs later.

This new rule is so noteworthy that Jeremiah Poff of the Washington Examiner claimed that it “will do wonders for election integrity in the Peach State” and that “every state should pass” a measure like it. “Public confidence in elections is paramount to keeping civil order and facilitating transfers of power from one party to another. Counting votes in a timely and accurate manner is essential to keeping that confidence,” Poff wrote.

However, many on the left are less enthusiastic about the new bill. Fair Fight Action, an organization reportedly founded by twice-failed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, called it “a gift to MAGA election deniers” and claimed it will embolden “right-wing activists in their efforts to kick Black and brown voters off the rolls.”

Andrea Young, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia, likewise called the bill “a step back for voters’ rights and voting access.” “This bill will require already overburdened election workers to spend time processing unnecessary voter challenges,” Young said in a statement.

Some of the bill’s changes will not be implemented for months or even years to come, but most of them — including the new rules regarding absentee ballots — go into effect in July.

A spokesperson for Gov. Kemp did not provide USA Today a statement about the new bill but did confirm to the outlet that Kemp signed it on Monday.

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