- The Washington Times
Thursday, April 8, 2021

Georgia voters who lack state-issued photo ID cards can still obtain mail-in ballots and vote by providing one of a host of other identification documents, according to a Washington Times analysis of the state’s new election law.

Democrats have lambasted the Republican-backed regulations and the photo ID requirement as racist. President Biden called it “Jim Crow on steroids” as he incorrectly characterized the bill as shortening voting days and hours when it actually does the opposite.

Major League Baseball, quoting Mr. Biden’s criticism, decided to protest by moving the All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver.

A close look at the law, Senate Bill 202, shows that a person lacking either a driver’s license or a state-issued photo ID can turn to other forms of identification — some with photos, some without — and affix facsimiles to the mail-in ballot application.

In that sense, the new Georgia election law is similar to those in a number of states. New York, for example, lists photo ID as a requirement, but also lists other documents that will allow a person to vote.

The big change made by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and the Republican-led legislature was to end the practice of verifying mail-in ballots by matching signatures on the envelopes with those on file.

The secretary of state’s office said there was no discernible fraud in the 2020 election. But the somewhat subjective chore of registrars comparing handwriting samples and coming to a conclusion was time-consuming.

“It has been a problem for counties and both political parties because it is subjective,” a state election official told The Washington Times. “A simpler, quicker and more definitive approach is a number. Either it is correct or it isn’t. We’re not the first state to do this.”

The new procedure: Compare ID numbers — those on the application with those on file with the state. The assumption is that the vast majority of adults have either a driver’s license or state-issued photo ID since they are necessary to conduct the routines of life.

The move, however, enraged the political left, which invoked Jim Crow, the now-extinct laws in the South that kept Black people disenfranchised.

SB 202’s key section states: “Any person applying for an absentee-by-mail ballot shall make application in writing on the form made available by the secretary of state. In order to confirm the identity of the voter, such form shall require the elector to provide his or her name, date of birth, address as registered, address where the elector wishes the ballot to be mailed, and the number of his or her Georgia driver’s license or identification card If such elector does not have a Georgia driver’s license or identification card the elector shall affirm this fact in the manner prescribed in the application and the elector shall provide a copy of a form of identification listed [in a related election law] The form made available by the Secretary of State shall include a space to affix a photocopy or electronic image of such identification.”

The bottom line: Georgia voters without state photo ID can still vote.

The related election law activated under SB 202 lists non-photo alternative forms of identification: a current utility bill, a bank statement, paycheck or “other government document that shows the name and address of such elector.”

Two election officials affirmed to The Times that voters who attach those non-photo documents will receive a mail-in ballot from the state.

“They would get a live ballot,” one official told The Times. “Those documents should satisfy the local absentee-ballot clerk in his or her duties to verify the identity of the voter.”

There are four other acceptable photo IDs in addition to a driver’s license or a state-issued ID: a government employee ID, a passport, a military ID or a tribal ID.

If an applicant has none of these, the voter may still submit a provisional ballot.

In addition, Georgia has been a “no-excuse” mail-in ballot state since 2005. A voter simply needs to request the ballot without providing a reason. New York state, for example, requires that a voter provide an “excuse” to obtain the ballot.

Mr. Raffensperger issued a statement defending the law: “There’s no rational argument against requiring state ID — provided for free to those who don’t have a driver’s license — for absentee ballots. I implemented our first version of that last year; every absentee ballot request that came in through the state website was cross-referenced with the driver’s license database and other records. This also requires counties to offer more weekend voting and puts drop boxes into law for the first time. The State Board of Elections adopted them as an emergency measure last year in response to the pandemic and would have gone away without direct action by the General Assembly.”

• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at rscarborough@washingtontimes.com.

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