Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of clay Magazine or TPS.
On March 25, 2021, Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia signed Senate Bill (S.B.) 202 into law, one that intends to decrease the likelihood of voter fraud in mail-in ballots, the fastest growing and most controversial methods of voting. Absentee ballots immensely grew in popularity as the COVID-19 pandemic kept many at home, but the inherent issue that the voter doesn’t go to the poll to submit their ballot leaves the door open to potential voter fraud. Many Republicans supported this notion, pointing out Joe Biden collected the vast majority of absentee ballots in several swing states. Another purpose of S.B. 202 is to lower the chances the Georgia election board rejects an absentee ballot as they did over two thousand times in the 2020 election. This corresponds to a whopping 350% increase in rejected absentee ballots compared to the 2018 election, and a number of these nullified votes is due to the current format of the Georgian absentee ballot. Until the passage of S.B. 202, Georgia simply required the voter’s signature, where the election board would compare it to a signature they have on record. However, signatures naturally change over time, and this can cause some confusion during election time. If the board thinks the ballot’s signature doesn’t match, then they will reject the ballot, discounting the vote entirely. In a state where Ed Setzler, a Republican representative for the 35th district of Georgia, won by only 280 votes, it’s entirely possible those 2011 nullified votes could have made all the difference.
To attempt to close both of these dangerous ballot shortfalls, Kemp signed S.B. 202 into law, which requires that anyone who wishes to receive or submit an absentee ballot must include their Georgia driver’s license number or voter ID number along with the last four digits of their social security number. If a prospective voter doesn’t own either one of these, they can include a copy or scan of their government-issued passport, military ID, or tribal card, along with the last four digits of their social security number. If a photo ID isn’t available, at minimum, the voter needs to include those final digits and check the box showing they can’t give an ID number or photo ID. This is similar to in-person voting in Georgia, where any voter must show a driver’s license or other form of photo ID before submitting their ballot.
Nevertheless, S.B. 202 received much flak from opposing Democrats with President Biden calling the new revisions “Jim Crow in the 21st century,” and Leigh Miller, the vice chair for Hall County Democrats, naming the bill a “national embarrassment.” In fact, not one but three lawsuits have been submitted against S.B. 202 at the time of this writing, suing for a repeal of this law on the basis that the law enforces voter suppression against minorities. The first, filed by the New Georgia Project which is led by Stacey Abrams, attacks the bill on the front that S.B. 202 disproportionately affects African-American voters, since up to 25% of them own no government-issued ID, according to an unnamed study.
However, there are a few issues with Abrams’ arguments. First, Matt Dubnik, a representative from Georgia’s 29th district, noted that 97% of Georgians have a Georgian driver’s license, leaving them eligible to vote with no changes or problems in the voting process. For the remaining 3% of voters, Georgian legislature created the provision that those who don’t have a photo ID can instead provide the last four digits of the social security number on their ballot. Another option is the Georgia voter’s ID, which is free as mandated by the law. Finally, taking a look at the 25% number the lawsuit cites, this number appears to be from the Brennan Center for Justice, a research branch of New York University devoted to social justice. This number comes from a telephone survey the Brennan center conducted, and there appear to be a few discrepancies. First, this survey was conducted in November of 2006, 7 major elections before S.B. 202 was passed, which naturally leads to the question, “How do we know that the number hasn’t changed?” Furthermore, only 987 people responded to the survey, a small sample size considering that an estimated 158 million Americans voted in the last election. Additionally, the survey admits that the “results of this survey were weighted to account for underrepresentation of race,” while the 25% ID-less number is unexplained in their methodology. Finally, the lawsuit, as a whole, ignores the fact that a Georgian voter can only include the last four digits of their SSN.
The other two lawsuits from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ) don’t do much better. Both of these laws claim suppression through “burdensome identification requirements,” yet still ignore the SSN exception to the rule. Regardless of the intentions of these lawsuits, they don’t hold up to the standard set by the legal system of the US. In these cases, evidence is important which is something these suits, as far as I know, simply don’t bring to the table.