Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, on Wednesday gave his thoughts on the continuing fallout after Georgia’s election law revisions.
Miller, the Senate’s president pro tempore, spoke April 21 at a forum put on by the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, providing a recap of the 2021 legislative session.
Miller said that punditry from national media outlets and political figures on SB 202 has created a false narrative for a state attempting to restore confidence in its election process.
“When I see and hear national figures making statements that are patently untrue and false, then that is not helpful in terms of building consensus (regarding our elections),” Miller said.
Election reform was the topic du jour of the 2021 session. Lawmakers have said that confidence in the state’s elections eroded following partisan disputes of the final results in the 2016 and 2020 general elections and the 2018 gubernatorial race.
Signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp on March 25 behind closed doors, SB 202 implements sweeping changes to the state’s elections process including heightened ID standards for those requesting to vote absentee and expansion of early voting hours.
Opponents of the new election law from state and national civil rights groups to President Joe Biden have criticized the law as a tool for voter suppression.
The fallout from the bill has led to four lawsuits filed against the state and economic losses including Major League Baseball’s decision earlier this month to relocate its 2021 All-Star Game and events from Atlanta to Denver.
Miller took aim at the social and economic backlash the state has received from major corporations and businesses that have come out in opposition of SB 202 in recent weeks.
“Major companies that I know for a fact were literally at the table when we were discussing this legislation never expressed any concerns over this,” Miller said. “And then a few days after (SB 202) is passed, for them to express their horror and disbelief that we passed this bill when they said nothing about it when we were discussing it … it doesn’t help anyone.”
Miller said that a common misconception about the bill is that the new law restricts voting by eliminating ballot drop boxes, which were installed last fall by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 by reducing wait times at the polls.
The new law will not get rid of ballot drop boxes or criminalize dropping ballots off but will change the accessibility of the drop boxes.
“There was a lot of pushback and concerns that we outlaw drop boxes. But there is no place in Georgia code that even mentions drop boxes, and they were put in effect because of the pandemic,” he said. “We did not eliminate drop boxes, we just asked for some control of drop boxes.”
All 159 counties must have at least one ballot drop box; however, there can only be one per 100,000 active voters or for every early voting site.
Miller said the timing of SB 202 allows the legislature to revisit possible tweaks to the law next January before the highly anticipated 2022 midterm elections.
As for where Georgia is heading, coming out of a hotly discussed legislative session and in the throes of COVID-19 vaccination efforts, Miller is optimistic about the Peach State in an eventual post-COVID era.
“If you compare Georgia to surrounding states, I think we ranked 13th out of 50 states in terms of COVID recovery, meaning people going back to work, people paying their bills or going back to school,” he said. “So I think Georgia is in a really good spot ... The fact of the matter is that we have survived COVID-19 far better than our neighbors.”