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Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger joined fellow Republicans Wednesday in calling for an end to allowing all voters in the state to submit absentee ballots without providing justification for why they cannot vote in person.
Many states instituted "no-excuse" absentee voting in 2020 so that voters could avoid crowds at polling sites during the coronavirus pandemic, although Georgia has had it for 15 years. After the high voter turnout and tumultuous aftermath of the 2020 election, Raffensperger endorsed eliminating the practice during a Georgia House hearing.
"The no-excuse system voted into law in 2005 — long before most of you, if not all of you, long before I was in the General Assembly — it makes no sense when we have three weeks of in-person early voting available," Raffensberger said. "It opens the door to potential illegal voting, especially in light of the federal rules that deny us the ability to keep voter lists, registration files, clean."
Raffensberger also noted that allowing everyone to vote via absentee ballot poses logistical difficulties.
In addition to changing the standard for who can vote absentee, Raffensberger also called to impose a voter ID requirement for absentee ballots instead of the current signature-matching system, which could be subjective.
The suggestions to improve election security came immediately after Raffensberger claimed most allegations of voter fraud during November's election were invalid. He opened the hearing by saying that while "there are real, substantive questions," but "the vast majority of claims we have seen online and in the media, and even discussed in the halls of the Capitol are simply unfounded."
When asked why Raffensberger's office wanted to eliminate no-excuse absentee voting, the secretary of state's general counsel Ryan Germany explained, "It's harder to provide confidence in that process."
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So far, Georgia voters have requested more than 1.3 million absentee ballots for the Jan. 5 Senate runoff races, while 1.2 million people have voted early in person.
Republicans in the Georgia State Senate have said they will push to make this change, as well as the voter ID requirement for absentee ballots, after President Trump narrowly lost the state by less than 12,000 votes. According to the Georgia secretary of state's office, President-elect Joe Biden received nearly 850,000 absentee votes compared to just over 450,000 for Trump.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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