What’s this? Another GOP push to restrict early voting?
Bill would reduce early voting from 21 to 12 days, require Sunday voting
- Joeff Davis/CL File
- State Rep. Mark Hamilton, R-Cumming
Republican lawmakers, seemingly unhappy with the way Democratic-leaning counties rolled out Sunday voting in 2014, are responding with a bill that would slash the number of early voting days nearly in half. And they’re doing so under the guise of ensuring that all Georgians have the option of voting on Sunday.
State Rep. Mark Hamilton, R-Cumming, earlier this week introduced a proposal that would curb the number of early voting days from 21 days to 12 days leading up to Election Day. His measure would also require all Georgia counties to open polling precincts on the Saturday and Sunday within that window. The move, he’s told reporters, would create less confusion and help reduce costs for local governments.
“We hear from many, many counties and cities around the state about the costs of early voting because you have to have three poll workers there during polling hours, so it should be a substantial reduction in costs for many cities and counties,” he told the Morris News Service.
Last year, nearly a dozen counties, including DeKalb and Fulton, decided to let voters cast ballots on Sundays for the first time in Georgia history. GOP officials, including Gov. Nathan Deal and state Sen. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, considered the decision to be a partisan move that placed Republicans at a disadvantage.
Some Democrats, including state Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, are opposed to the bill. Fort tells CL the Hamilton’s measure is a part of the “continued assault of Republicans against access to the polls.” This is hardly the first GOP attempt to restrict early voting, he says. In 2011 Republican lawmakers passed a bill that scaled back early voting from 45 to 21 days.
Fort says Georgia counties already have the option to open the polls on Sunday — most just haven’t done so yet — making Hamilton’s bill unnecessary.
“They’re shortening early voting further and trying to throw us a bone,” Fort says. “But he’s not doing anyone a favor. ...The Republican Party has problems by virtue of the fact that they continue to control Georgia politically, but the demographics will catch up with them. The only way they can stop it is by suppressing voters.”
We’ve reached out to Hamilton for comment. If we hear back, we’ll post an update.