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GA House Passes Bill on Voting Access  03/02 06:10

   

   ATLANTA (AP) -- Republican lawmakers in Georgia muscled legislation through 
the state House on Monday that would roll back voting access, over the 
objection of Democrats and civil rights groups gathered at the Capitol to 
protest.

   The bill comes after record turnout led to Democratic wins in Georgia's 
presidential election and two U.S. Senate runoffs.

   House Bill 531 passed the lower legislative chamber by a vote of 97-72. It 
now goes to the state Senate for more debate.

   The far-reaching bill would require a photo ID for absentee voting, limit 
the amount of time voters have to request an absentee ballot, restrict where 
ballot drop boxes could be located and when they could be accessed, and limit 
early voting hours on weekends, among many other changes.

   It is one of a flood of election bills being pushed by GOP lawmakers across 
the country this year that would add new barriers to voting.

   Republicans say the measure is needed to restore the public's confidence in 
elections, after former President Donald Trump and his allies relentlessly 
pushed false claims about fraud.

   "House Bill 531 is designed to begin to bring back the confidence of our 
voters back into our election system," said Republican Rep. Barry Fleming, the 
measure's chief sponsor.

   Democrats say the legislation furthers Trump's lies and would 
disproportionately affect voters of color.

   "It's pathetically obvious to anyone paying attention that when Trump lost 
the November election and Georgia flipped control of the U.S. Senate to 
Democrats shortly after, Republicans got the message that they were in a 
political death spiral," Democratic Rep. Renitta Shannon said. "And now they 
are doing anything they can to silence the voices of Black and brown voters 
specifically, because they largely powered these wins."

   Dozens of protesters gathered just outside the Capitol on Monday in 
opposition to the bill, chanting "say no to voter suppression" and "protect the 
vote."

   "Today, before the eyes of this country, Georgia is poised to pass some of 
the most egregious, dangerous and most expensive voter suppression acts in this 
entire nation, rolling back years of hardball progress and renewing our own 
reputation for discrimination," the Rev. James Woodall, president of the 
Georgia NAACP, said at the rally.

   Alaina Reaves, the president of the Clayton County Young Democrats, was 
among the protesters.

   "We take one step forward and then you know these legislators are trying to 
bring us up to two steps back," Reaves said.

   Later Monday, the state Senate Ethics Committee approved a Republican-backed 
bill that would limit who can vote absentee in Georgia to those 65 and older, 
people with a disability and people who will be away from their precinct on 
Election Day.

   That bill would do away with no-excuse absentee voting adopted by a 
Republican-controlled legislature in 2005. It could soon move to the full 
Senate for a vote.




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