CLEVELAND, Ga: During a White County Republican meeting, Senator Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) presented details about the omnibus election reform bill.
The legislation encompasses the 15 bills floating around the Senate dealing with the issue. Senate leadership hopes to pass the bill by crossover day and then let the House vote on it. Crossover day is day 27, which will be around two weeks from now.
“A lot of these things we talked about today were incorporated by Republicans in the last 20 years. I think Governor Sonny Perdue signed a lot of this stuff into law. A lot of us feel, maybe it has gone a little bit too far. We’re trying to address some commonsense solutions that we’ve seen over the last three or four years. This is not a reaction completely based on what happened on November 3 or January 5. This is a culmination of things that have been drifting for several years now,” Gooch remarked.
The senator has received thousands of emails regarding election integrity and reform in Georgia. He commented that people had lost faith in the system.
Gooch’s on board for a photo ID requirement for absentee ballots and wants every “legal vote to count.”
“We want every legal voter in Georgia to go vote. We’re not trying to suppress the vote. We’re not trying to keep Democrats from coming out to vote,” Gooch added.
The absentee ballot process possesses several loopholes, and Senator Gooch thinks adding a photo ID is an excellent first step. Several instances of mishandling of signature verification occurred during the 2020 election. The Secretary of State’s Office confirmed fraud occurred and opened investigations. However, they claimed it wasn’t enough to change the election.
Gooch stated, “I’m ready to get rid of all the drop boxes that was not allowed in state law, and it’s still not allowed in state law. That was done as an executive order by the Secretary of State under a national emergency powers act, and we’re going to close the loophole.”
Cobb, Fulton, Gwinnett, Clayton, and Dekalb set up 150 drop boxes using grant money. A current House bill prevents election boards from accepting grant money. Gooch agreed that grants need to stop because the money “was discriminatory in where they were being spent.” The contributions weren’t being spent statewide, according to Gooch.
The omnibus bill would make mobile units a permanent precinct unit. It couldn’t move freely throughout a county.
Ninth District Chairman Rebecca Yardley asked the Senate to examine how county election offices operate and perhaps provide the Secretary of State’s Office with oversight into local election procedure. She also thanked Gooch for “stepping out in front” of the election integrity issue.
Last week, the Senate introduced a bill that would create a statewide grand jury for election fraud investigations. The Georgia attorney general could present fraud evidence to the grand jury, and they would decide to move forward or not.
One attendee expressed the need to reach minority voters and letting them know the opportunities possible by voting Republican.
Gooch warned, “it will get rough out there” when dealing with election reform, especially on social media. He encouraged Republicans to enter in civil and polite discussion with those opposed and clarify the measures aren’t about voter suppression but restoring integrity.
People can expect the omnibus bill to drop sometime this week in the Senate.
Gooch mentioned Governor Brian Kemp (R) would probably call a special session to discuss redistricting later in the year. He added to look for North Georgia’s population to grow and South Georgia’s to decrease. Some North Georgia districts might shrink. Currently, it seems unlikely for Georgia to gain a 15th congressman.
After the significant cuts made last year, the General Assembly has restored most of the monies. The General Assembly has reinstated almost 90 percent of the education cuts, and GDOT received $92 million for roadwork.
The state will take steps to help out the struggling tourist business. Governor Brian Kemp added $1 million specifically to help out the industry. The Perry State Fair received a couple of million dollars to combat its almost year-long shutdown.