State of Democracy Spotlight Series: Georgia
With the midterm primary season coming to a close and focus shifting to the November general election, Movement Advancement Project (MAP)’s State of Democracy Spotlight Series profiles a different state each week.
This series provides an overview of the current voting landscape, key issues that are coming up in that state, and why it matters for the overall state of democracy in this country. These spotlights outline policies that will impact what voting may look like in a number of battleground states and summarize how voting and election laws have changed since the 2020 election, for better or for worse.
See the full state profile for Georgia, which ranks Georgia in the six categories of policies we track, and details voting and election laws Georgia has in place. Previous State of Democracy Spotlights can be found here: Florida.
How Georgia Compares to Other States on Voting and Election Policies
Georgia ranks 40th in the nation in our Democracy Tally for its voting, election, and democracy policies. The Democracy Maps currently track 45 laws and policies for each state, which inform this tally.
Of the six policy areas we track, Georgia ranks highest in the category of election security. The state has in place five of the six policies we track in election security.
Read our latest report about policies that ensure election security | Democracy Maps
“Policy Spotlight: Five Approaches to Actually Secure U.S. Elections” details approaches that states should adopt to ensure that elections are fair, secure, and accessible for every eligible voter.
- One area where Georgia can improve in terms of security is adopting the use of voter-verifiable, hand-marked paper ballots, which allow voters to verify their choices. Georgia is one of only 13 states that does not have secure voting technology available for the majority of voters.
- In a positive for election security, Georgia uses best practice, risk-limiting post-election audits, which use statistical methods to verify election results. This type of independent, nonpartisan audit was particularly important following the 2020 election, when Georgia had the second closest margin (of only 12,600 votes) in the presidential race. The risk-limiting audit clearly showed the results were correct and accurate.
In-Person Voting and Mail Voting
Georgia ranks very poorly in the areas of in-person and mail voting access.
- Restrictive policies like strict voter ID work to impede access to the ballot. Georgia is one of only ten states that have a strict photo ID requirement for voting.
- In the 2020 election, voters waited for long periods of time to vote. Georgia is one of the states with excessive wait times to vote, with a higher-than-average wait time than the rest of the country, according to the MIT Election Performance Index.
- Georgia has an adequate early voting period, which allows voters 19 days in advance of the election to cast their vote.
Independence and Integrity of Elections
Georgia also ranks poorly in the category of election independence and integrity.
- Georgia is one of only eight states that has passed a law allowing the state legislature to interfere in election administration. Under SB 202, passed in 2021, the legislature can remove the Secretary of State as head of the State Election Board and appoint a replacement. The law allows the legislature to reject emergency election changes enacted by the State Election Board and allows the State Elections Board to take power over county election authorities.
Georgia is the Center of Criminal Probes into Efforts to Overturn 2020 Election
Georgia is among a few states to have criminal probes into the 2020 election and efforts to overturn its results. Following the 2020 election, efforts were made by some Republicans to overturn the results and keep the former president in power. Georgia was at the center of these efforts, partly due to the close margin in the presidential race. Now multiple criminal investigations are focused on these efforts in the state.
For example, an Atlanta prosecutor is pursuing an investigation focused on multiple efforts by the former president and those connected to him to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
- The investigation is partly focused on a phone call the former president made to Georgia’s Secretary of State, where he asked the official to “find” the votes needed to declare him the winner. Senator Lindsay Graham and Rudy Giuliani are also targets of the probe.
- The investigation also concerns a scheme by 16 Republican electors in the state who submitted a fake certificate of electors, which was sent to the federal government as part of a plan to subvert the Electoral College proceedings. If convicted, the targets of the investigation could face prison sentences.
Georgia is also the center of an investigation into alleged breaches of election offices following the 2020 election.
- The breaches involved efforts by lawyers connected to the former president to copy sensitive voting data and software. New surveillance footage has emerged showing the chair of the Coffee County Republican party letting the lawyers into the election office.
- This same chairperson is also one of the 16 targets in the fake elector scheme discussed above. The footage also shows an individual entering the office who was involved in a similar scheme in Michigan. According to reports, all of the voting equipment, software and ballots in the election office were compromised.
Georgia Lawmakers Implemented Restrictions on Voting After Democratic Victories in 2020
Despite the very real tampering that occurred in Georgia by political operatives, the same political forces in the state have advanced false narratives of voter fraud. Like in Florida, following the 2020 election, lawmakers in Georgia used false justifications of voter fraud to implement restrictions on popular voting methods. These restrictions are likely to disproportionately limit the ability of Black voters to vote.
Georgia is one of four states that have implemented restrictions on ballot drop boxes since 2020. While drop boxes are still allowed, they are severely limited, which may negatively impact voter turnout. According to reporting by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, less than half the number of voters in the Atlanta metro area returned their ballots using drop boxes as compared to 2020. Analysis by NPR revealed that the restrictions resulted in a longer travel time to a drop box for almost 2 million voters in the state, again primarily in the metro Atlanta area. The number of drop boxes in the four metro Atlanta counties fell from over 100 in 2020 to just 25.
Georgia also implemented a number of other restrictions related to mail voting, including requiring ID (which disproportionately impacts voters of color), requiring voters to have a handwritten signature to apply for absentee ballots, and shortening the period to apply for ballots.
The new law also banned mobile voting centers, which were used by over 11,000 voters in metro Atlanta in 2020.
Like the most recent state in our spotlight series, Florida, Georgia is certain to be a focal point of the upcoming midterm election, with the governorship and a Senate seat up for grabs. After the state saw the 2020 presidential race decided by just over 12,000 votes, the restrictions put in place since then have the potential to significantly impact elections in Georgia. The passage of these restrictions, based on false narratives of voter fraud, decreases the health of our democracy in a time when it is most under threat.