Voting restrictions put in place by Republican state lawmakers in Georgia after the 2020 election led to far higher disenfranchisement rates in 2021, according to a report published Friday by Mother Jones.
The GOP-supported law enacted in March 2021 limits the use of drop boxes, narrows the time frame voters have to request and return mail-in ballots, imposes new ID requirements, and prohibits election officials from sending unsolicited ballot applications to voters.
When comparing data from municipal elections this past November with the 2020 presidential election, a few points became clear.
First, Georgians who obtained mail-in ballots in 2021 were twice as likely to have them rejected. This could have been due to a number of factors. One potential factor is a ballot being received after the Election Day deadline. This may have to do with the mail service being used in place of drop boxes, of which there were fewer in 2021 because Republicans decided that there could be only one drop box for every 100,000 active voters in a county. This led the number of drop boxes in the four metro Atlanta counties to decrease from 97 in 2020 to 23 in 2021. Another potential reason for ballots being rejected was missing or incorrect identification information, which in some cases could be due to changed ID requirements.
Second, if this same frequency of rejected ballots in 2021 occurred in the 2020 presidential election, then about 31,000 fewer votes would have been cast. Biden’s margin of victory in Georgia was fewer than 12,000 votes. Notably, Democrats in 2021 who voted via mail-in ballot outnumbered Republicans who did so by about 3.5 to 1.
Lastly, 2.19 percent of Georgians who requested mail-in ballots in 2021 ended up not voting at all. This might not sound like a lot, but that percentage is just under 44 times greater than the percentage of Georgians who requested a ballot, were denied it, and didn’t vote in 2020.
The effect of the Georgia law is another example of how Republicans in several states last year — 19, according to the Brennan Center for Justice — have made it more difficult to vote. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed legislation similar to Georgia’s last September. And even in blue states like Pennsylvania, Republicans are suing over expanded no-excuse mail-in ballot access, even though many of them voted for it in 2019.
“What we’ve seen passed this [past] year is more than a third of all the voting restrictions that have passed in the last decade,” Wendy Weiser, the vice president of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center, told NBC News. “The way a lot of these voting restrictions work, they work by making it harder just for a subset of the electorate to vote — and that tends to disproportionately be voters of color, sometimes students, but they’re very targeted.”
The restrictions also highlight the necessity — and thus far the failure — of Congress to pass voting rights legislation, as experts say the Supreme Court’s recent limits on the Voting Rights Act of 1965 serve as tacit approval for GOP legislators.