Three elections bills that could transform voting in Georgia awaiting governor's signature

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Election legislation took center stage during the 2024 legislative session, as pivotal races for local, statewide and national offices grows ever closer in Georgia.

While a bill governing the use of artificial intelligence notably failed to clear the legislature before Sine Die, several other bills have already been sent to Gov. Brian Kemp to be signed into law.

Taken together, the bills could change the way elections across the state are conducted, tallied and audited. Here’s what’s next for the three bills that passed the legislature.

Elections 2024: Six bills that could change the way elections are conducted, tallied and audited in Georgia

HB 974

A bill that would allow ballots cast in an election to be uploaded to the Georgia Secretary of State’s website for the public to access successfully passed through the Georgia legislature on the final day of the 2024 session.

The measure, authored by state Rep. John LaHood (R-Valdosta), was designed to increase transparency and public confidence in election results throughout the state in response to a deluge of election deniers who have repeatedly claimed the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

Georgia state Representative John LaHood
Georgia state Representative John LaHood

The digital scans will not contain identifying information of any voters and must be posted by 5 p.m. on the second Friday after the election.

The bill also includes new guidelines on election audits, requiring that the risk of an incorrect outcome does not exceed 8% during the 2024 election season, and dropping to 5% by 2028.

It was sent to the governor’s desk on April 3 and is awaiting his signature.

HB 1207

Initially a bill that governed ballot proofing procedures for local superintendents, House Bill 1207 was amended in the Senate Ethics Committee to include language from SB 221, a controversial elections bill that failed to pass during the 2023 legislative session. 

The new section requires all election workers to be U.S. citizens, in addition to outlining protections for poll watchers and eliminating the requirement for polling places to maintain a ratio of one voting machine for every 250 voters. It also limits a candidate’s timeframe for reviewing their information before it officially appears on a ballot, giving them a maximum of 24 hours to request any changes.

The bill passed through the House and the Senate on the final day of the 2024 legislative session, and was sent to the governor on April 3. It currently awaits his signature.

SB 189

Perhaps the most controversial elections measure of the 2024 session, Senate Bill 189 would implement sweeping changes to current voting laws aimed at improving election security and voter confidence.

Among other things, it would allow mass voter challenges, change the rules governing where homeless voters can register, and eliminate the use of QR codes on ballots. It would also shorten the timeframe for early and absentee ballots to be counted, requiring the tabulation to be completed within an hour of the polls closing on election day.

Mass voter challenges have been on the rise in Georgia over the past several years, often coinciding with pivotal elections throughout the state. Over 360,000 Georgia voters had their eligibility challenged by the Texas-based organization True the Vote leading up to the 2021 U.S. Senate runoff.

Georgia state Senator Max Burns
Georgia state Senator Max Burns

SB 189 outlines several factors that can be used to determine the validity of a voter challenge, but does not limit which factors can be used to place a claim, or how many challenges an individual or organization can file. It would also allow voters to be removed from the rolls until 45 days before an election, violating the National Voter Registration Act, which bans challenges within 90 days of an election.

Sponsored by Sen. Max Burns (R-Sylvania), the bill received final passage on the last day of the legislative session, passing out of the House with a 101-73 vote, and the Senate with a 33-22 vote. It was sent to Gov. Brian Kemp on April 4.

Kemp has 40 days to sign or veto the bill, after which it will automatically become law. The ACLU has promised to sue if Kemp signs the bill into law.

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Voting rights: What's next for Georgia's election legislation