Georgia state Rep. Barry Fleming lost his job over the state’s recently passed election reform legislation.
The Hancock County Board of Commissioners voted 4-0 to ask Fleming to resign as county attorney “after pressure from citizens opposed to his work on proposed voting law changes,” Georgia Public Broadcasting reported March 10.
Critics of Georgia’s new law say it hampers voting rights, but Fleming, R-Harlem, argues that it does just the opposite.
“It makes it easier to vote in Georgia,” Fleming says, adding:
In Georgia, we actually expanded the days to early vote. There’s now or can be an extra 36 hours at least of early voting in Georgia. We made it very simple when it comes to absentee ballots. You still need no excuse to vote absentee in Georgia, and all you have to do is write down your driver’s license number. … So in Georgia we think going forward it will be easier to vote, but hopefully harder to cheat.
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Rachel del Guidice: We are joined on The Daily Signal by Georgia state Rep. Barry Fleming. Rep. Fleming, thank you for being with us on The Daily Signal.
State Rep. Barry Fleming: Thank you for having me, Rachel. I appreciate it.
Del Guidice: You are part of the leadership in the Georgia Legislature that passed Georgia’s new election integrity bill. Can you start off just by telling us about the bill?
Fleming: Sure. Yeah. The speaker of the House asked me to step down from being the chairman of our Judiciary Committee and chair a special committee on election integrity.
So in Georgia, we learned through the pandemic that we had some problems with parts of our election law. We have election bills every couple of years anyway to go along with changes in technology and adjustments, but particularly after the pandemic, we realized we needed to make some specific changes.
So we did several things in Georgia. We increased our security, I guess you would say, when it comes to voting with absentee ballots. We now are using the same identification requirements or similar for absentee ballots that we use for people showing their IDs when they go to vote in person.
Although we’re an in-person-preference state, our absentee ballots increased, like many states’ did, during the pandemic from about 3% to upwards of 30% or 40%. And our system just wasn’t designed to deal with that.
Some of the other things that we did for the first time were requiring security paper in Georgia, whether it’s an absentee ballot or voting in-person so that no one can just go get a piece of paper and call it a ballot. But there were several things like that in our elections law that we fined-tuned to make it easy to vote in Georgia, but hard to cheat.
Del Guidice: A lot of critics of this legislation say that it hampers voting rights. Is that the case?
Fleming: Not at all. In fact, it makes it easier to vote in Georgia. In Georgia, we actually expanded the days to early vote. There’s now or can be an extra 36 hours at least of early voting in Georgia.
We made it very simple when it comes to absentee ballots. You still need no excuse to vote absentee in Georgia, and all you have to do is write down your driver’s license number. It’s kind of a unique identifier number in Georgia, and 97% of our voters in Georgia are identified on the voting rolls by their driver’s license number. Nobody really uses a driver’s license number for anything else, so it’s real secure. It’s almost like a unique PIN.
So in Georgia we think going forward it will be easier to vote, but hopefully harder to cheat.
Del Guidice: You actually lost your job as a result of this legislation. It’s become very personal for you. Can you tell us the story about what happened, losing your job as the county attorney?
Fleming: Yeah. In Georgia, we’re only part-time legislators. We have to have, quote-unquote, a “real job” to pay the mortgage. For me, I’m a practicing attorney in the Augusta area, and my law firm is only about 12 folks, lawyers and staff. And one of our clients is local government clients. We serve the city or county attorney.
And the left went after me because I chaired the committee and helped pass this bill, and actually is actively, still to this day, to get my clients to fire me. And they did succeed in having one of them do that during the legislative session.
So it’s a small price to pay to make elections better accessible and more secure in Georgia. But we have had to endure not just the political attacks from the left, which we’re kind of used to, but now the personal attacks on our livelihoods.
So my fear is that if people don’t come out and support these good bills like we passed in Georgia, it will allow the left to be successful and deter other state legislators from updating and reforming their election laws to make it secure to vote all across the nation.
Del Guidice: On the personal note for you losing your job, what’s next for you? What are you looking to do?
Fleming: Well, fortunately, my firm does have other clients that we serve, so I still have other people that I’m working for.
But our goal right now is that this attack upon my clients and trying to get them to fire me hasn’t stopped. They literally, we’re told, are hiring people to go around to protest and try to convince them to do that.
So I’ll continue to try to educate my clients as to the fairness of this bill that we passed and how it’s going to make it easier to vote in Georgia.
Del Guidice: Well, as you’re aware, there’s so much pushback when it comes to having people provide an ID to be able to vote.
Del Guidice: But when you look at society, what we have to do to provide ID for, we have to do that to get on a plane, to adopt a pet. There’s so many things you have to give your ID for. Why is there this pushback behind providing an ID? Is it racist? What is your perspective on what’s going on?
Fleming: Of course not. It’s not racist. But they do claim it is racist.
A few years ago, we had this battle in Georgia over showing your ID to the polls, and I remember from that discussion, there was this entity that required you to show your ID. It was called the Democratic National Convention. In order to get on the floor of the Democratic National Convention when they held it that year, and I’m told they still do, they require a photo ID.
When you get on a plane to fly anywhere, you require a photo ID. If you’re going to go cash a check or prove yourself to your bank when you’re withdrawing funds, quite often in person, they make you show a photo ID.
So this whole concept of a photo ID being racist is simply ridiculous. If you look at several blue states across the nation, their voting laws are very similar, if not identical in some ways, to ours, that ID being part of that.
And the idea that it is somehow racist to show you a photo ID, which we do in so many aspects of society, is just one of the ridiculous things the left is pushing and attacking us in Georgia over.
Del Guidice: Institutions like Major League Baseball, they’ve withdrawn from Atlanta and they’ve moved elsewhere. What’s your perspective on this becoming part of a societal debate and MLB moving out of Georgia?
Fleming: It’s interesting. When Major League Baseball removed the All-Star Game from Atlanta, the people that got hurt the most were the folks in that area where the game would be played. A large minority population there, particularly small businesses owned by minorities, they had geared up and were planning for this to be a big boost, particularly coming out of COVID.
And to move the Major League Baseball All-Star Game to try to punish Georgia for passing a fair voting law and then end up hurting minority businesses, that’s just the sad state of the reality of the left’s campaign against common sense. It didn’t make any sense at all and still does not.
Del Guidice: So we’ve talked about [how] the MLB moved the game out of Atlanta to Colorado.
Fleming: That’s right.
Del Guidice: How different is Colorado’s voting law than Georgia’s? How different is this?
Fleming: In many ways, Georgia makes it easier to vote than Colorado does in several ways. It’s certainly not so different that it would justify moving a game. And once again, the irony of it all, it was minorities and minority business owners that were probably hurt the most by moving the game out of Atlanta to Colorado.
Del Guidice: You’ve talked about how minority business owners have been hurt by this.
Del Guidice: On the larger scale, how do the people of Georgia feel about what’s happening?
Fleming: There’s been some recent polling in Georgia and there’s significant support, majority support, Democrat and Republican, for several aspects of devoting a bill that we passed, particularly this whole idea we discussed of showing your ID. It’s so common sense.
So the rhetoric of the left, although they’re trying to attack people like me personally and other legislators that supported the law, there is, I think, a growing voter and citizen backlash against the untruths being told by the left.
So I think right now in Georgia, with the help of The Heritage Foundation, for example, this word is getting out that what we did … is a good thing.
Del Guidice: I believe I heard that the Georgia governor, Brian Kemp, he had offered to talk to the MLB about what was in the law.
Del Guidice: Whatever happened with that? Did they have that conversation?
Fleming: As I know, they did not allow him to have that conversation, which is the height of being a bad organization as far as making your decisions, in my view. If you won’t even talk about what’s in the bill and then you make a punitive decision that hurts Georgians, there can’t be anything good about that either.
Del Guidice: What do you want the larger population to know about what the Georgia election reform bill does that maybe the media just isn’t reporting on?
Fleming: Well, there’ve been so many fallacies that are put out there about our voting bill. Even President [Joe] Biden himself said, “What a shame Georgia has now cut off voting at 5 o’clock right when people get off work.” There’s absolutely no truth in that at all.
In fact, we only said that you had to be open at least 9 to 5 in early voting in Georgia. It used to be something called normal business hours, which varied across our 159 counties. So we actually expanded the number of hours to vote and said you can be open until 7 to 7 if that’s good for your area.
So that’s just one of the things that was put out there that was untrue.
This whole idea that people can’t be given water if they’re standing in line to vote, another thing that was completely untrue.
Not only can you can be given water, all we did in Georgia is said—we’ve always had this 150-foot area that once the voters get inside there, that’s where you leave them alone. You don’t campaign. We were having problems with that happening in Georgia. We just reiterated what the law already was.
So there’s just multiple examples of shrinking early voting hours to when we actually expanded it, making it harder to vote absentee when it’s easier now probably than it ever was before. So many examples of falsehoods that are out there.
Del Guidice: Speaking of the media, what is your perspective on how the media has covered this legislation?
Fleming: The media on the left has been very unfair. They have just reiterated the talking points from the left that [have] mischaracterized what we did in Georgia.
Fortunately, there are some outlets that are in the middle and on the right that have been reporting this. They’re just catching up with some of the big lies on the left, I would say. So slowly, the word is getting out there of actually the fair law that we passed in Georgia, but it’s been an effort.
Del Guidice: What else needs to happen, in your opinion, to ensure election integrity throughout this country? So not just in Georgia, but throughout the country as a whole.
Fleming: I think we’ve got to talk about more actively actually how we made it easier to vote and harder to cheat in Georgia because that’s what other states are doing.
I have begun something called the Election Integrity Fund, a 501(c)(4), just to try to get out this information of what we did in Georgia so other states can follow the example and help people vote.
And the main thing is that we want it easy to vote, but we don’t want your or any other legal citizen’s votes canceled out by someone who wasn’t supposed to vote. So the more that we can get that message out across the nation, I think the better off we’ll be.
Del Guidice: On a large-scale note, what kind of risk does the country run if election integrity isn’t pursued and that’s not something that we actually have?
Fleming: Well, one of the main things about democracy is the people have to have confidence in their election system. Because if they don’t have confidence in their election system, that it works properly, that it’s fair, that only people that are supposed to vote are allowed to vote, well, then it begins to undermine the whole bedrock of our democracy.
So I think this idea of fair elections, elections that are run with integrity, is so important. And the left is only undermining that with some of the actions and some of the criticisms they’ve leveled unfairly at Georgia.
Del Guidice: It’s really interesting that you bring up that point of confidence. I have a couple friends back in Ohio, especially, and they’ve seen what’s happened with the presidential elections and even beyond that. And they’ve told me that, “I’m not really sure I’m going to vote again in another election,” because they are very concerned about what’s happening. Have you heard similar stories?
Fleming: We have. We’ve seen that in Georgia.
If you look in Georgia, the drop-off between the November election that we had in 2020 and then we had runoffs in Georgia for two Senate seats, there was a significant drop-off in voters that turned out, particularly in some of the more rural areas in Georgia. And it was because of a lack of confidence and some of the ways some of our counties were running the election system.
So we’ve not only heard that, but we’ve seen that firsthand in Georgia, people thinking that, “Well, if my vote’s not going to count, why should I even go vote?” That’s one reason we passed this bill in Georgia, to restore confidence in our voting system.
Del Guidice: State Rep. Fleming, thank you so much for joining us on The Daily Signal. It’s been great having you with us.
Fleming: Thank you, Rachel. I enjoyed being here.