Georgia Republican lawmakers are pushing for more restrictive voting laws, citing concerns over current ballot access laws.
Among the bills under consideration include Georgia House Bill 531, which passed in the Georgia General Assembly on Monday. The bill would add a voter ID requirement for absentee ballots, limit the number and locations of early voting drop-off boxes, as well as reduce early voting days during the weekends prior to an election — including allowing just one Sunday to vote early. Under the current version of the bill, which now heads to the state Senate, individuals could be charged with misdemeanor crime if they hand out food or drinks while voters are in line.
The bill has faced harsh criticsm from state Democrats, who say the bills are little more than a thinly-veiled attempt at restricting the right to vote.
“Why do we have to add in making it illegal to give a bottled water to someone? If we’re really not trying to suppress the vote, why are we even making giving water to someone an issue?” Democratic State Rep. Patty Bently told 13WMAZ.
The slew of bills is also putting pressure on state corporations, including Coca-Cola, as as well state political organization, both of whom are attempting to walk a fine line.
“We believe our state and local governments should do everything possible to maximize voter participation and minimize unnecessary obstacles in our elections, while working to ensure election integrity,” said Dave Williams, a senior executive with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Business lobbies remain actively engaged in the legislative process, while publicly they have expressed little or no opposition to the measures.
Coca-Cola said it would “work to advance voting rights and access” in Georgia and across the country. Delta Air Lines backed an “election system that promotes broad voter participation, equal access to the polls, and fair, secure elections processes.” Home Depot endorsed “accessible, fair and secure” elections. Likewise, Aflac and UPS touted a push for fairness and integrity.