GOP Lawmakers Push Election Integrity Bills in Battleground States

March 9, 2021 Updated: March 9, 2021

Since the hotly contested 2020 election, Republican state legislators have been advancing bills to bolster election integrity.

Across 50 states, there have been over 1,600 election-related bills introduced by either Republican or Democrat legislators. Only about 200 have made it out of a committee so far. A handful have been enacted, but none in the battleground states contested in November, based on data from Voting Rights Lab, an advocacy group co-founded by former executives of Mike Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety gun control group.

While criticized by Democrats for making voting more difficult, Republican voters have demanded election security measures be implemented—particularly in states where the GOP controls the legislatures, but Democrat President Joe Biden claimed victory.

There are six such states, Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. In all of them except New Hampshire, President Donald Trump contested the election results.

Republican lawmakers appear to have been most active in Arizona and Georgia.

Arizona

On March 8, the Arizona Senate passed a bill requiring voters to include an ID number (such as from a driver’s license) or their voter registration number plus at least a proof of address (such as a utility bill) with their mail-in ballots. Previously, an ID was only required for in-person voting.

On March 3, the Arizona House of Representatives passed a bill banning private funding of elections. The bill is a response to the unprecedented move by Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg to pour over $400 million into local election offices last year. The money was spent in a way that benefited Democrats, the Amistad Project reported last year.

On the same day, the Arizona House also passed a bill that prohibits same-day voter registration.

On March 4, the House passed a bill that would make it a felony for election officials to change election-related dates and deadlines stipulated in law, unless ordered by a court. Election officials indeed made such changes on their own in some states last year, using the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic as a justification.

That day, the House also passed a bill that bans officials from sending out unsolicited absentee ballot request forms.

Election integrity was voters’ top concern, said State Rep. Jake Hoffman, who introduced the House bills as co-chair of the House election committee.

He’s working to address the issue by looking at where “the areas of concern or what the best practices from across the country” are that could “ensure Arizona voters have maximum confidence in our process and in our system,” he told The Epoch Times in a phone call.

Another Senate bill making its way through legislative committees would require mail-in ballots to be postmarked by the Thursday before election day and received by close of polls on Election Day. It would have it that mail-in ballots are sent to voters 22 days before Election Day, instead of the current 27 days. Voters who surrender their absentee ballot at the polls could cast a regular ballot, rather than a provisional one.

Georgia

On March 1, the Georgia House of Representatives passed a wide ranging election reform bill that would require:

  • Voters to include an ID number or ID photocopy with their absentee ballots
  • Driver’s license numbers or last four digits of one’s social security number on an absentee ballot envelope
  • Limiting the number of drop boxes and their locations to polling places or registrar offices only
  • The drop boxes to be closed for Election Day
  • The Secretary of State to set up an online system for mail-in ballot applications
  • Absentee voters to sign attestation, under penalty of perjury, that they did not mark their ballot in the presence of people not authorized to assist them
  • The elimination of signature comparison in the verification of absentee ballots (replaced by the ID requirement)
  • Provisional ballots cast at the wrong precinct on Election Day to no longer to be accepted
  • A ban on “money or gifts” (including food and drinks) for voters at a polling place or standing in line to vote
  • Replacing the Secretary of State as head of the state election board with a nonpartisan head appointed by the legislature

And other provisions.

Meanwhile, Georgia Senate passed on March 8 its own election reform bill that would require:

  • Ending no-excuse absentee voting
  • Voters to include ID photocopy or ID number with their mail-in ballot applications
  • Voters to include an ID photocopy or ID number with their mail-in ballots or the last 4 digits of their social security number
  • Early voting locations to be only at the board of registrars main office, a county courthouse, a government office, or an Election Day polling place
  • Non-government entities distributing absentee ballot applications to include their name and a disclaimer that the form was not supplied by the government
  • Mobile polling places to be allowed only if a judge permits them and there’s an emergency rendering a polling place unsafe for human occupation or there’s a utility outage
  • Precinct opening hours on Election Day to be only extended by a court order
  • Banning the Secretary of State and county election officials from mailing unsolicited absentee ballot applications (which officials did in some states using COVID-19 as a justification)
  • A ban on sending absentee ballot applications that are pre-filled, even partially
  • The elimination of signature comparison on absentee ballot applications (replaced by the ID requirement)
  • The counting of ballots to continue until it is complete. Currently, election superintendents can stop counting and resume later

And other measures.

Various smaller bills are making their way through the committees.

One would furnish absentee ballots with bar codes for tracking purposes. Another would nix automatic voter registration at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Voters would need to opt-in (such as by checking a box) to get registered.

Yet another bill would expand poll watcher access so they could observe all the key processes at a tabulating center with minimal restrictions. The bill appears to be a response to complaints by numerous Republican poll watchers that they were kept so far from where the tabulation processes were happening as to render their observation meaningless.

One bill would require that after counting, absentee ballots be sorted and stored by precinct in sealed containers, with the chain of custody logged until legally disposed of. Ballot duplicates, which are made for damaged ballots, would get serial numbers and be kept with the original ballots at all times.

New Hampshire, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin

In the other states there seems to be much less activity.

The New Hampshire Senate passed a bill on March 4 that would require voters to include their ID number and the last four digits of their social security numbers with absentee ballot applications.

Michigan has a few smaller bills working their way through committees. One says that voters with “unknown dates of birth” should get notice to provide their real date of birth or get their status changed to “challenged,” which means they’d get removed from the rolls after missing two general elections and primaries. The notice, when returned, would get signature-matched to the voter records. Another bill would adopt a similar procedure to purge from the rolls people who haven’t voted since the 2000 general election.

Pennsylvania Republicans introduced several bills to remove dead or ineligible voters from the rolls as well as nix no-excuse mail-in voting. None of the bills, however, has made it out of a committee so far.

In Wisconsin, Republican State Sen. Kathy Bernier introduced on March 8 two bills that would make a number of small or technical changes to the election code.

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