ATLANTA — The Georgia Senate approved a bill Tuesday to require more identification for absentee voting, the first elections bill to pass either legislative chamber as lawmakers consider new voting rules after last year’s heated presidential race.
Voters would have to provide a driver’s license number, state ID number or a copy of photo ID when requesting absentee ballots, according to Senate Bill 67. Currently, absentee ballots are verified based on voters’ signatures and registration information rather than an ID.
The Senate approved the bill mostly along party lines, 35-18. It will next be considered by the state House of Representatives.
The effort to require ID for absentee voting appears to have support among the General Assembly’s Republican majority in both legislative chambers. Democrats oppose the legislation, saying it would create a burden for Georgia voters who lack a driver’s license or access to a copy machine needed to submit a photo ID.
The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Larry Walker, said all but 3% of Georgia voters already have a driver’s license number or state ID number on file, meaning they wouldn’t have to provide a copy of photo ID to vote absentee. Photo ID is already required of in-person voters.
“It’s not about disenfranchising voters. It’s not about overburdening the electorate. It’s about efficiency and security,” said Walker, a Republican from Perry.
Democratic state Sen. David Lucas, a Democrat from Macon, said the ID requirements would make it harder for people to vote absentee, especially those who would have to make a copy of photo ID to request an absentee ballot.
“Let’s make no mistake about what this bill is about: The election did not turn out the way you wanted it to,” Lucas said, addressing Republican senators in a tearful speech. “We’re perpetuating this big lie of fraud.”
Over 1.3 million of Georgia’s 5 million voters cast absentee ballots in the November presidential election, which Democrat Joe Biden won by less than 12,000 votes against Republican Donald Trump.
The absentee ID bill is part of a Senate package of bills supported by Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan seeking absentee ID, requiring scanning of absentee ballots to begin eight days before election day, and mandating election data reporting.
It advanced before other proposed voting restrictions, including a broad elections bill under consideration in the state House.
That legislation, House Bill 531, would eliminate Sunday voting, limit ballot drop boxes, impose an absentee ballot request deadline, and require ID both when requesting and returning absentee ballots. The House Election Integrity Committee could vote on that bill as soon as Tuesday afternoon.
Nearly three-quarters of Georgia voters said they support proposals requiring photo ID or other documentation to cast an absentee ballot, according to a poll conducted in January for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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