The state of Georgia enacted election reform legislation, signed into law last week, that has drawn harsh criticism from the left. President Joe Biden and others have likened it to the Jim Crow era.
What does the election law accomplish, and how is Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp responding to the criticism?
“The bill makes it easy to vote and hard to cheat,” he said. “It replaces an arbitrary signature match on absentee ballots by mail with the voter ID, which is free in Georgia.”
Kemp joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss what’s in the new law, and contrary to what its critics claim, what’s not.
We also cover these stories:
- Kemp says calls to boycott businesses in Georgia over the newly passed election law, which strengthens voting regulations, are “ridiculous.”
- The United States signs on with 13 other countries to register concerns about a World Health Organization report on where the coronavirus came from.
- The Biden administration announces plans to take action to combat anti-Asian violence.
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Fred Lucas: We are joined today by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to talk about the new Georgia voting law. It’s come under a lot of intense scrutiny at the national level.
And Governor, I wanted to ask you specifically about what President [Joe] Biden said last week—he and others have made this comparison to the Jim Crow era—and first get your response to that. I mean, did you anticipate that the bill would come under that kind of rhetorical criticism?
Gov. Brian Kemp: Well, Fred, thanks for having me on. I just appreciate all the work that [The Heritage Foundation] is doing on this right now and their support to really push what the truth is out there, that obviously the president doesn’t know what that is.
I don’t think he has any idea what’s in this bill and really, the people driving this narrative that are benefiting financially off of it don’t really care what’s in the bill. They had their narrative written over a month ago before we worked the final details out.
But it’s really pretty simple, the bill makes it easy to vote and hard to cheat. It replaces an arbitrary signature match on absentee ballots by mail with the voter ID, which is free in Georgia. It secures ballot drop boxes. It makes sure that the county election officials continuously tabulate all the votes until they’re all counted, don’t take any breaks overnight and things of that nature.
And then believe it or not, I think unbeknownst to the president, it expands early voting opportunities here in Georgia, especially on the weekends.
So it’s pretty comical the outrage that we’re seeing from the left, but it’s really just driving a narrative and it’s gotten so bad that even The Washington Post has given President Biden the four Pinocchios on their fact check on this.
Lucas: Do you think the particular demonizing of this legislation at the state level is to boost the Democrats’ chances of passing HR 1 at the federal level?
Kemp: I don’t think there’s any doubt about this. I think this is part of the playbook. If you look and see when the domain name Jim Crow 2.0 was reserved, it was long before they ever knew what was going to be in the final version of the bill. It was all part of the narrative to say, “Hey, Georgia did this.”
And if it had been another state, they’d be targeting them and making the same case for passing HR 1, which, as you know, Fred, is an unconstitutional power grab by the Democrats. And now Joe Biden’s labeling the filibuster Jim Crow as well.
But I’ll tell you, I think the other thing he’s doing is trying to distract from the problem he has on the border. His reversal of President [Donald] Trump’s policies down there, people are flooding across the border kids and women being trafficked. And I think they’re just trying to distract from that and drive their takeover bid in Washington, D.C., that’s unconstitutional.
Lucas: You mentioned that had this been any other state—[The] Washington Post article you mentioned brought up that Delaware probably has more strict early voting laws than Georgia at this point.
Kemp: I was just actually looking at a comparison of the two states that somebody did, [that] one of our legislators … sent out. It’s really interesting, especially when you look at the opportunities to vote early in our state versus Delaware. I mean, it’s a world of difference. The president should be worried about his own state, not the great state of Georgia.
Lucas: I wanted to ask, there’s been a lot said about the drop boxes and what’s different about drop boxes under this law than in the 2020 election. But the fact is this law codifies drop boxes. I mean, drop boxes would not be in future elections but for this law, is that correct?
Kemp: Absolutely, which is really what’s so ridiculous about their argument about the drop boxes being taken away or the use of drop boxes as being suppressed. They never have been in the law, at least in recent years. They were a tool to use with the pandemic, when we had problems with the post office across the country.
People worried about so many votes by mail. To alleviate that situation, the secretary of state and the State Election Board used the emergency powers that they had under the public health state of emergency that existed in Georgia to allow drop boxes.
Now, they were supposed to be secured with cameras and other things, which didn’t happen, that upset a lot of people. You had other counties that didn’t use drop boxes at all.
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And basically the Legislature said, “We got to have an orderly process for drop boxes, we think it’s a good option, but they need to be in a secure environment where people can simply drop their ballot off, if they don’t trust the mail,” which I don’t have a problem with and that’s what we’ve done in this bill.
And now all 159 counties will have to be required to have at least one drop box that will be available during working hours inside a voting location, so it can be properly monitored, where people can go drop their ballot off.
To make the case that this was taken away is ridiculous. If we hadn’t included it in the bill, once the public health emergency goes away, the drop boxes would have gone away as well. Because, as you said, it was never in the law to start with.
Lucas: There has been a good deal of news coverage out there looking into money that came in that was funded by Mark Zuckerberg grants, just outside institutes in general that were putting money into local counties. Could you talk a little bit about how this bill addresses that outside money coming in for election administration?
Kemp: Yeah, that was something I think frustrated a lot of people because it was obviously targeted, I think, for a reason, or a lot of people felt it was. This will really just do away with that and treat all counties fairly.
The thing about elections is you want them to be secure, accessible, and fair. And they should be, in my opinion, consistent all across our state—from the opportunity for people to be able to vote, but also being able to secure the ballot—and for certain counties to have private resources that other counties don’t have is really not equitable in that process.
And that was something that the General Assembly weighed on in the legislation and that was what was in the final version that I signed
Lucas: After going through many iterations of attacking this bill, it seemed like the left has sort of settled on water bottles as the main rallying cry in this. Why do you think that is? Do you think that’s a lack of substance on the voter ID issues that they have to rely on this?
Kemp: Yeah. I guess that’s all they’ve got left, Fred, is water. Even the president mentioned that. The only water he should be concerned with is the water that’s leaking from that dam that’s broken on the southern border right now.
But people can still get water. Obviously, a voter can bring a bottle of water, bring a drink, they can bring food with them to the location.
The counties can provide a water station that voters need, but we’re not going to allow electioneering and allow campaign staff, third-party groups, candidates themselves to hand out water or snacks or goodies while people are within that 150-foot buffer of the precinct or 25 feet within the end of the line.
You can still set up outside that buffer and sign, wave, and cook hamburgers, and hand out pamphlets.
The Democratic Party can set up, the Republican Party can set up, but when you’re inside that buffer, voters don’t need to be intimidated. They need to be left alone where it’s an orderly process and they’re not being pulled one way or another, they can vote their conscience and do it in a secure way and move on. But that whole argument about taking water away is comical, quite honestly.
But I’ve also told people, Fred, why are people standing in line that long? They should be outraged that in these counties, mainly run by Democrats, where you have long lines, why is the process not more efficient? Why don’t they have more people working there? Why isn’t there more equipment there?
Well, this bill actually addresses that to speed up the voting process for people.
Of course, the left is not mentioning that, they’re only mentioning that their third-party groups and others now can’t go hand out goodies to try to sway people when they’re standing in line. And this is something that’s been in place for a long time and exists in almost every other state.
Lucas: To address this point, they could be hanging out there. Of course, immediately after the presidential election, former President Trump had criticized you. Just to be clear on this point, support for this bill, does that relate or in any way question the legitimacy of the Georgia outcome in 2020?
Kemp: Well, to me, this is just about addressing problems that we had in this year’s election. And this has been done many times in the past with other elections, when things come up, the General Assembly would address it.
There’s actually provisions in this bill that the Democrats and these people that are talking about boycotting Georgia businesses, which is ridiculous, and saying all these things, how bad this bill is, there’s democratic provisions that were added to this bill to help the mechanics of the process that we saw that didn’t work very well on Election Day.
I’ve said, and I said this when I was secretary of state, and I’ll say it today, there’s fraud in every election. How much of it, that is determined after the election, when the full investigations are being done.
That’s ongoing in the state of Georgia and you would have thought the secretary of state and his investigators about that—even though I’ve allowed the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to help them with that this year, just to make sure that we can get confidence back into our elections and that these things are being thoroughly vetted.
But a lot of the problem is how long it took the count to take place because of the arbitrary signature match. The voter ID, which is free in Georgia, will help address that, streamline the process.
The continuous counting, where people aren’t taking breaks and monitors are having to leave and then they start counting before they come back or whatever the allegation was, that’ll resolve that issue.
Making sure that people can watch that process, that are monitoring the elections, that weren’t allowed to do that or it was done so in a way that they were so far away that they couldn’t properly see what was going on.
I mean, the ability to watch the logic and accuracy testing before the election, a lot of those nuts and bolts things are addressed in this bill to really help with things that we did see that were definitely problems on Election Day [and] I think will help us run more efficient elections in the future.
There’s still going to be, in many ways, even not only accessible, but even more accessible with more opportunities for weekend voting in Georgia. But because of these things, it’s also going to be very secure, which is what people should want. And the majority of Georgians support the voter ID requirement and a lot of the other things that we have going on here in our state.
Lucas: And just real quick, circling back to the line about the water and so forth, that is something that’s not entirely new. I mean, I did see that [Georgia Secretary of State Brad] Raffensperger had actually tried to address that during the 2020 election process and the early voting, looking into how to avoid people handing out goodies and so forth on the voting lines.
Kemp: Yeah. That was in place every year that I was secretary of state. I mean, we would always have problems in Georgia.
The county sheriff is a constitutional officer. They’re in charge of making sure that courthouses are secure and securing voting locations. And we always had issues with, if the sheriff’s going to a precinct the same year they’re up for election to do their official duties, there’s that gray line there, but we’ve always had that issue.
And I’ve had this for myself, when I was secretary of state, I used to visit precincts all the time during the election to just go in and see how it was going, see how the lines were moving, see if the equipment was working correctly. But like the years I was on the ballot, I did not do that because I would have been in that boundary, even if I wasn’t campaigning. I just felt like that was improper.
And part of our process, and has been for over a decade, is you have to put those signs up, marking that line. So people know, if they want to put signs up outside a precinct, they got to be outside that boundary. If they want to sign and wave to people that are driving in or walking into the precinct, they have to be outside that boundary.
So this is nothing new. It is just addressing, I think, a specific problem or problems that people got complaints about in this last cycle.
Lucas: With the new ID requirement replacing signature verification, that seems on some level, it could be easier to verify. Also, with more resources addressing long lines, have the local election officials been supportive of this?
Kemp: I mean, you’d probably be better asking legislators about that because they’re the ones that were lobbying on the bill.
I will tell you this, I’ve talked to several folks that I’ve worked with over the years that are either election superintendents or elected probate judges that run elections in our counties. In some counties, the probate judge does it; in some counties, we have an election superintendent and a local elections board that does that.
And several of them, I asked them about the ID requirement or either a photocopy, putting the numbers down—last four of your social, your free voter ID card that will give you a state-issued ID card here in Georgia. Very easy to get that ID, 97% of the people are already voting with that here in our state, prior to this election, because most people voted in person, only a few voted absentee.
They feel like this will speed up the process. It will make it more efficient. And it takes out the arbitrary nature of a signature match and trying to say, “Well, yeah, this is close,” or, “It’s not close enough.” I mean, if the numbers match, the numbers match on your driver’s license; if they don’t, they don’t.
And I think it’s going to be a big help and it’s in no way going to alienate or disallow someone from the opportunity to vote because most people have these IDs. If they don’t, we’ll give them one for free. And even if you don’t have that, there’s provisions in the bill where you can still get an absentee ballot by submitting other documents that are listed out in the legislation.
Lucas: And on one point, you do have to return those absentee ballots earlier. Could these critics, I mean, is it reasonable for them to say that that is a restriction at least, that you have to return them earlier than previously?
Kemp: I guess you could make that case, but you also have the United States post office saying that you should do that 14 days before an election. I think this bill has 11 days, so we’re not as stringent as what the United States post office is saying.
So if they’re saying that while Joe Biden is president, then I think that pours cold water on that argument.
But I’m pretty sure this provision, too, is one of the ones that the Democrats supported. And I think it’s also one that the association of county elections officials of Georgia—which has all the county commissioners across our state—supported as well.
The reason this is being done is to make sure that people get their ballot back in time, so it doesn’t miss the deadline to be counted and come in after the election’s over and that vote gets thrown out.
So it will help with that. But also, codifying the drop boxes allows people, even if they’re worried about the mail, they can drop it in a drop box. And even, like the last few days of the election or on Election Day, that voter can still deliver that ballot to an election clerk to make sure that vote is counted. So I don’t think that argument really holds a whole lot of water.
Lucas: All right. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Kemp: Well, I just appreciate all the work that you guys are doing and really helping us get the truth out there. I’ve been telling a lot of people, “Look, don’t just believe me, go fact-check it for yourself. Look at a lot of the things.” Even The Washington Post now, that’s fact-checking this.
This is a good bill, it fixes a lot of issues that we had. It continues to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat in Georgia. And I just appreciate you having me on.
Lucas: OK. Well, thanks for joining us.
Kemp: Thank you.