In March 2021, the Georgia state legislature passed and Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed SB 202, the Election Integrity Act of 2021. According to polling by University of Georgia School of Public and International Affairs, major provisions of SB 202 are supported by the majority of Georgians. However, the law has been the subject of criticism by President Biden and Members of Congress. And the Department of Justice has sued Georgia in federal court, claiming that SB 202 is discriminatory.
How much do you know about Georgia’s new election integrity law? Let’s play “Two Truths & a Lie” and find out.
A. Georgia law protects voters from vote buying.
B. Georgia permits churches to offer “souls to polls” transportation to voting locations.
C. Georgia closes the polls on election day at 5:00 p.m.
Let’s take these statements one at a time:
A. TRUTH! Georgia’s new law prohibits “line warming” (using small gifts of drinks, money, or food to increase turnout and/or influence a person’s vote). Government officials observed political parties and candidates handing out gifts of food and water in 2018 and 2020 to voters waiting in line in Georgia.
Buying votes is a well-known type of fraud in U.S. elections, dating back to George Washington, who bribed the electorate with alcohol. In more recent U.S. elections, this type of fraud in East St. Louis, Oakland, and Chicago, occurred when certain outside groups—such as political parties, get-out-the-vote groups, and candidates—offered gifts in exchange for showing up to vote. Recognizing how influential a drink can be, until 2010, Georgia banned the sale of alcohol on election day.
The President falsely claimed that “you can’t provide water for people standing in line while they’re waiting to vote”, but under SB 202, self-service water is permissible, the distinction being that it must be offered for everyone and provided by the government, not political parties or candidates.
B. TRUTH! In certain areas of Georgia, churches organize “souls to the polls” efforts on Sundays, and local election officials may open the polls on one or two Sundays during early voting. Although an earlier version of the legislation did not include this provision, the state legislative process incorporated input from the people of Georgia about the importance of this service for minority communities to get to polls during the Civil Rights era, and Georgia public officials included this reform in the final version of SB 202.
C. LIE! On election day, the polls in Georgia are required to be open statewide from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., contrary to President Biden’s claim that the law ends voting hours early. The 12 full hours of voting on election day were in Georgia law before 2021 and remain the law after SB 202. The new Georgia law actually increases voting hours during early voting to ensure access for all Georgia voters. SB 202 also expanded its number of early voting days from 16 to a mandatory minimum of 17, including two required Saturdays plus two optional Sundays. SB 202 also expanded its weekend hours during early voting from 1 Saturday to 2 Saturdays. Georgia voters who work from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on weekdays have the chance to vote before and after work on election day and on the weekend during the early voting period.
Bottom line: Contrary to claims that Georgia’s new election law is Jim Crow 2.0, SB 202 reforms elections in the state by banning vote buying, increasing weekend voting times, and offering the ability for churches to organize voter turnout efforts on Sundays. In other words it makes it easier for citizens to vote.