How Georgia can help protect election integrity

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Most people can agree, there are a few ground rules for a fair fight. You should know when it begins, and when it ends. There should be a clear and understood set of rules that are applied to everyone equally. It should be difficult for people to cheat and, when they do, they should be dealt with. When fights are fair, people participate more and accept the outcome, because they trust the process.

Elections are no different. According to new polling by the Opportunity Solutions Project, there is broad, bipartisan support for cracking down on loopholes and rulebreakers. That’s why Georgia lawmakers have put forth several proposals to further secure elections, including H.B. 531, which passed the House this month.

The reform legislation includes solutions to train poll workers, verify the identities of absentee voters, reduce wait times at polling locations, better authenticate paper ballots, and prevent third-party ballot harvesting in places like nursing.

To prevent confusion and misinformation, it requires all counties to have the same early voting dates and times. It also shores up the timeline for requesting and processing absentee ballots to give election workers time to verify the legitimacy of each application, and to prevent counts from dragging on for days due to late applications and late votes.

Like all fair fights, elections need to end at some point. People need to know who won, and they need to trust they won the right way.

Under the provisions set by H.B. 531, voters would have 78 days—nearly three months—ahead of the election to request an absentee ballot. Applications for a ballot could be submitted up to 11 days before the election. Ballots must be sent to absentee voters no fewer than 25 days before an election—more than enough time to get a ballot signed, sealed, and delivered. You can drop the ballot in a secure box (there will be one in each county), or you can simply drop it in the U.S. Mail.

Georgians could also vote in person, as we always have. In fact, H.B. 531 would prevent hours-long waits by requiring election officials to reduce the size of a voting precinct or provide additional equipment before the next general election if the wait for voters to check in is longer than one hour. The check-in wait times would be measured at least three times on Election Day to give an accurate representation—and any precinct changes would be made at least 60 days before the next election.

These are ground rules that will strengthen people’s faith in our electoral process. With these reforms, the General Assembly is reducing confusion and making our election rules clear. They are finding solutions that make it easy to vote, and difficult to cheat. They are ensuring poll workers get the training they need to make sure voting goes smoothly and that rules are followed. Making the system less vulnerable to the institutional mishandling of votes or tampering with elections is good for voters and it is good for Georgia.

They are working to make it a fair fight.

We should be thanking them for spending hundreds of hours researching election procedures across the country and comparing them to find the best solutions for Georgia. When elections are honest and people have faith in the process, every candidate wins—even when you lose.

Katie Rodgers is a resident of Blue Ridge and is the vice president of outreach and government affairs at the Foundation for Government Accountability.

This was reprinted from the print edition of The News Observer