FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. – Dist. 24 State Rep. Sheri Gilligan spent a fair portion of her “Saturdays with Sheri” public information meeting discussing the newly enacted SB 202 “Election Integrity Act” and HB 290, the healthcare bill that regulates visitation to patients in hospitals and long term healthcare facilities.
The new voting law signed by Gov. Brian Kemp last week has prompted cries of “voter suppression” among Democrats. But Gilligan said the bill actually expands voting opportunities by increasing the number of early voting days to as many as four. Now, voters can cast their ballot on either of two early voting Saturdays or at least one Sunday. Some counties may opt to add a second Sunday.
The portion of the 98-page law that has drawn the most criticism from Democrats is the requirement that a photo ID accompany each request for an absentee ballot by mail. “Some of the criticism you just have to say is not valid,” Gilligan said.
“It’s a large bill and I have read every word,”she said. “I don’t agree with every word of this bill but it’s a good bill.”
Gilligan said she likes the additional early voting opportunities. “What I like about the Saturday voting is that there are a lot of counties that did not offer Saturday voting at all. A lot of Georgians – if they couldn’t get there Monday through Friday or Election Day – didn’t have any weekend opportunities at all. So I’m excited there are more opportunities.”
Voter drop boxes that appeared in some Georgia counties for the first time in 2020 were optional, Gilligan noted. Under the new law they are required in every county but must be inside and secure 24/7. Those ballots must be collected and counted daily.
Gilligan said the new law requires county election boards to do things they were supposed to have done in the past but failed to do. “By rule, they were supposed to report how many people were in line that day, how many votes were provisional, how many absentee envelopes they received that day. They were not doing it. They were supposed to balance their books. They were not doing it. A lot of things that were required by rule are now codified into law.”
The fate of HB has yet to be decided. But Gilligan said it has been gutted by the hospital association. The Senate must vote on its version of the bill this week. “The nursing homes and long-term care facilities got behind it but the hospital association locked down against it so they gutted the bill,” Gilligan said.
If the Senate passes a version of the bill that is different to the House bill, a conference committee will be appointed. Three senators and three representatives will negotiate the final product.
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