What to Know in Washington: Georgia Voters Face Fresh Hurdles

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Georgia voters face new obstacles to casting mail ballots in the closely watched run-off election due to changes from a controversial law passed last year, according to voting rights groups.

The law cut in half the time between a general election and a runoff, making it hard for voters to request, receive and return a mail ballot in time for the Dec. 6 election to determine the state’s Senate seat.

“It’s really frustrating,” said Crystal Greer, Protect the Vote GA co-founder. “Voters are confused and organizers are scrambling.”

The fight over vote-by-mail is already the subject of a legal fight in Georgia over whether to allow early voting on Saturday because of losing a day to the Thanksgiving holiday. A number of larger, Democratic-leaning counties plan to offer it, but Republicans are asking the state Supreme Court to block it.

Georgia does not have a permanent mail voter list, which means most people have to request a mail ballot for the runoff even if they voted by mail in November.

More than 248,000 Georgia voters cast a mail ballot in the Nov. 8 election, about 6% of the total vote, according to the Secretary of State’s office. In that election, Democrat incumbent US Senator Raphael Warnock led Republican and ex-football star Herschel Walker by about 38,000 votes — shy of the 50% needed to avoid a run-off. The seat will determine whether President Joe Biden’s party expands its thin majority in the chamber after Republicans took control of the House in the midterms.

The shorter runoff was one of a number of changes in SB 202, the 95-page law signed in 2021 to change how Georgia elections are run. In a speech in Atlanta in January, Biden attacked the law and others like it as “Jim Crow 2.0,” referencing the notorious restrictions on voting in the pre-Civil Rights era. Read more

Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) at a campaign event Nov. 8.

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To contact the reporter on this story: Michaela Ross in Washington at mross@bgov.com

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