Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan said Tuesday he supports legislation during the 2021 session that would add another verification for people casting paper absentee ballots after that method of voting became the source of controversy among his fellow Republicans in the 2020 election.
But he said he does not support new major limitations on absentee voting like his chamber’s Republican caucus proposed when it called for eliminating no-excuse absentee voting late last year. A record number of Georgians turned to absentee mail-in voting during the pandemic.
Duncan, who is the president of the Senate, emerged from the drama-filled 2020 election cycle as one of the few outspoken Republican supporters of the GOP Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp as they faced pressure to overturn the presidential election results.
Duncan publicly criticized former President Donald Trump and his allies for their repeated baseless claims that the Nov. 3 election was rife with widespread fraud, costing Trump a win in Georgia over President Joe Biden.
There have been no substantiated reports of widespread fraud in Georgia’s election. But even so, Duncan said Tuesday that he supports looking into new absentee ballot security measures this legislative session, such as requiring photo ID.
Adding a photo ID requirement for absentee voting is among the GOP proposals expected to emerge this session after Georgia Democrats voting by mail helped deliver their party a presidency and two U.S. Senate seats. Another proposal will likely restrict absentee ballot drop boxes after the State Election Board allowed their use in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is my ninth session around these processes,” Duncan said during a media briefing setting out his legislative priorities. “Every election cycle, we find new things that we can update and modernize and we can tighten.”
Raffensperger, Kemp and GOP House Speaker David Ralston are also in favor of requiring voters to provide a photo ID when voting by mail. But those top officials have not gone as far as backing the Georgia Republican Senate Caucus’ push to eliminate the GOP-created 2005 law that allows any registered voter to cast ballots through the postal service without offering a reason.
Meanwhile, Democrats have said they’ll fight the ID requirement and also will advocate this session for same-day voter registration and expanding the no-excuse voting options. Democrats attribute Republican voter restriction proposals as a reaction to losing statewide races to Democrats for the first time in years.
“Instead of curtailing absentee, Democrats are calling to advance a permanent vote by mail option for all voters, such as the one that currently available to all voters over the age of 65,” Atlanta Sen. Elena Parent said earlier this month when Democrats unveiled their priorities for the session. “This cure approach involves automatically mailing ballots to voters who have opted in and proven their eligibility.”
Another wrinkle that could hinder any election legislation this year is the Biden administration aims to push through the restoration of the federal voting rights act. The John Lewis Voting Rights Act would require many states to get preclearance from the U.S Department of Justice to pass voting laws with the potential to make it more difficult for minorities to cast ballots.