The Georgia Senate approved a bill Tuesday requiring more identification for absentee voting, the first elections measure to clear either legislative chamber as lawmakers consider new voting rules after last year’s heated presidential race.
Voters would have to provide a driver’s license number, state ID number or a copy of photo ID when requesting absentee ballots, according to Senate Bill 67. Currently, absentee ballots are verified based on voters’ signatures and registration information rather than an ID.
The Senate passed the bill mostly along party lines, 35-18.
State Sen. Larry Walker, one of the Republicans sponsoring the bill, said the bill would not affect about 97 percent of voters, according to the AP. The remaining percentage of voters, Walker said, could vote in person.
The bill has already been met with opposition from Democrats and voting rights groups who say the legislation would make it difficult for voters who don’t have a driver’s license or state identification card to vote absentee. According to the AP, absentee ballots are currently tallied using signature verification.
In a statement on Tuesday afternoon, voting rights group Fair Fight Action said the bill would add “needless barriers to voting in Georgia” and accused proponents of the measure of ignoring voters who would be affected by the legislation.
“In Georgia, with more than 7,692,567 registered voters, that means that 230,777 electors may not have the requisite identification and will therefore incur a burden in complying with the law,” the group said, while also adding that the “discriminatory policy” shows “Georgia has not moved past the racist motivations for which it was included in preclearance under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”
Some rioters decide to storm the state capitol in protest of the new bill.
As Fox 5 reported, a small group of people was holding a demonstration about House Bill 531, an omnibus bill that would shorten began chanting inside the building and state troopers asked them to leave.
When an officer tried to disperse the crowd using a bullhorn, State Rep. Park Cannon, D-Atlanta, stepped in front of the megaphone.
“Ma’am, step aside,” ordered another trooper, before touching Cannon’s arm. “Go. Go. Step aside, ma’am.
“Don’t touch me,” Rep. Cannon said.
That prompted the protestors to exit the building while lawmakers and troopers tried to sort out what had happened.
Rep. Cannon said she and the protestors were not in violation of the law because the House was not in session at the time of the incident, but the Senate was still meeting.
“We have been peaceful,” Rep. Cannon shouted. “We have raised our voices. We have brought our signs. We have not touched anyone.”
The Atlanta Democrat then sat down on the Capitol steps and said she would not move until she got an apology from the trooper who made contact with her.
“I’m not apologizing to you,” he said.
The Georgia State Patrol issued a statement about the incident, stating:
“On February 26, 2021, several individuals inside the state Capitol began shouting and causing a disturbance in violation of O.C.G.A. 16-11-34.1. As Troopers were attempting to read a dispersal order, Representative Cannon stepped in front of the megaphone and placed her head against it causing feedback. After Representative Cannon impeded the dispersal order, she was told to step to the side. After actions that could be construed as Obstruction of Law Enforcement O.C.G.A. 16-10-24, Representative Cannon was moved to the side so that the dispersal order could be completed. The individuals causing the original disturbance left the Capitol without incident. No arrests were made and no charges have been filed.”
Rep. Cannon and several other Democratic House members stayed on the Capitol steps for about two hours before leaving for the day.
Another bill advanced by a state Senate subcommittee in a party-line 3-2 vote would, if passed, require Georgians who wish to vote by absentee to meet certain requirements in order to do so. As of now, the state does not require voters to have a reason to vote absentee.