This is an opinion.
"Our decisions, the laws we pass, carry the weight of authority; but only when it’s with the consent of the governed. And that consent is only given when the people have faith that an election was fair and fairly won. Some of you may think it is sour grapes or whining over the results of the last election. Even if you think the machines can’t be hacked and the votes were fairly counted, we still need the people of Georgia to believe in the process — and right now they are unconvinced.”
State Senator Elena Parent spoke these words in the well of the Senate on March of 2019, a few months after Stacey Abrams lost the governor’s race. The quote is significant because Parent is a Democrat who was calling for greater election security.
Now, of course, the shoe is on the other foot. Republicans are the ones who want to tighten election security.
I think Sen. Parent was right, we should have passed better election security back in 2019. If we had, more Georgians would have faith in our government. As it is, the vast majority of our citizens either distrust the election of 2018 or 2020…or both.
That has to change.
There are now two large omnibus election bills at play, one by the Senate and one by the House. There are also a plethora of smaller Senate bills. During the next two weeks, some of these bills will probably be merged into one of these omnibuses.
In general, the House bill calls for securing drop boxes, shortening run-offs, standardizing the hours all poll sites should be open, creating special provisions for military voting, using only special security paper for ballots, and a few other things. Most importantly, it also requires that all absentee ballot requests be accompanied with a driver’s license number or other form of identification. It does not eliminate no-excuse absentee ballots, but some of the Senate measures do. This will probably be the biggest bone of contention between the two chambers.
It’s important to remember that Georgia was a leader in requiring a photo ID to vote. Absentee ballots should have an equal measure of security as people voting in person.
There are only two more weeks of session. So far, the House and Senate are gridlocked with each other on a large number of bills. This is mostly because of the differences in the election bills. Unfortunately, my three bills are stuck in the Senate because of this log jam. One is my Teacher Tax Credit bill for very rural schools. The other two are military bills for Speech Therapists and Counselors. All passed nearly unanimously in the House, but are now in jeopardy because of this schism.
A good measure that did pass was a large portion of the Governor’s Education initiative. We authorized the annual Georgia Teacher of the Year to be on the State School Board, made it easier for military veterans to get a job as a teacher, and enhanced our historically black colleges’ ability to train new teachers. The retired teacher Return to Work piece that I have been working on for five years (and is now part of the governor’s package) will have to wait until next year.
Finally, we authorized the construction of a statue honoring former Gov. Zell Miller to be placed on the grounds of the state Capitol. A bipartisan committee will determine the specifics of the statue. Both a Democrat and a Republican, this Georgia legend will be most remembered for his HOPE Scholarship. Still one of the most generous scholarships in the nation, it’s provided billions of dollars to millions of our children…all paid for by the Lottery. It has also made our universities much stronger, as Georgia’s finest minds remain here in Georgia.
Dave Belton represents District 112 in the state House of Representatives, serving Morgan and Newton counties.