Former President Jimmy Carter says he is ‘disheartened, saddened, and angry’ to see Georgia legislators advance voting restrictions

Jimmy carter
Jimmy Carter. AP Photo/John Bazemore
  • Former President Jimmy Carter said he was “disheartened” at proposed voting restrictions in Georgia.
  • Lawmakers have recently advanced bills to restrict absentee voting, among other changes.
  • Carter also called out mischaracterizations of a bipartisan report on elections he coauthored.
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Former President Jimmy Carter said in a Tuesday statement he was “disheartened, saddened, and angry” at many of the new voting restrictions being advanced by lawmakers in his home state of Georgia.

Republican legislators in the state are pushing for a slew of restrictions on voting in the state after Georgians voted to elect President Joe Biden in November and Democratic Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in January.

Monday was “Crossover Day,” or the last day to determine which bills will be viable, in the Georgia legislative session set to end on March 31.

Georgia Public Broadcasting reported that about a dozen election-related bills, including two omnibus packages, one passed by each chamber, were still alive and could be passed and sent to the governor’s desk this session. While not all the bills restrict voting access, many proposals have drawn scrutiny and criticism from voting advocates.

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“Many of the proposed changes are reactions to allegations of fraud for which no evidence was produced – allegations that were, in fact, refuted through various audits, recounts, and other measures,” Carter said in his statement. “The proposed changes appear to be rooted in partisan interests, not in the interests of all Georgia voters.”

HB 531, the omnibus bill passed by the state House, would standardize early-voting dates and times statewide, requiring counties to hold Monday through Friday voting and one day of Saturday voting on one weekend. It would also give the option to hold either a day of Saturday or Sunday voting on one of the weekends.

Voting and civil-rights advocates say the limits on Sunday voting target African American voters, particularly the “Souls to the Polls” voting drives popular in Black communities.

The bill would also curb the secretary of state’s authority, ban “mobile-voting” buses, allow only one ballot drop box per county, narrow the window for voters to request mail ballots, give counties more flexibility in running early-voting locations to reduce long lines, and reduce the amount of time between general elections and runoffs.

On Monday, the state Senate passed a more aggressive omnibus bill, SB 241, that would eliminate no-excuse mail voting in Georgia altogether and require identification to vote absentee.

GPB’s Stephen Fowler reported on Monday the Senate omnibus was unlikely to pass and be signed into law in its current form because of opposition to ending no-excuse mail voting from Gov. Brian Kemp, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, and state House Speaker David Ralston.

In his post-presidency, Carter has served as an international observer for over 100 elections in dozens of countries and, in 2004, cochaired the bipartisan Commission on Federal Election Reform with former Secretary of State James Baker.

In his statement, Carter said he was “disappointed that advocates for these restrictive changes have repeatedly and selectively referenced” a 2005 report from the commission that he coauthored, which, among other things, concluded that “absentee ballots remain the largest source of potential voter fraud.”

Now, Carter said, times have changed.

“In the 16 years since the report’s release, vote-by-mail practices have progressed significantly as new technologies have been developed,” he said. “In light of these advances, I believe that voting by mail can be conducted in a manner that ensures election integrity.”

Election officials use a number of measures to ensure the integrity and authenticity of mail and absentee ballots, including affixing specific identifying information unique to the voter on ballots and envelopes, implementing online ballot-tracking systems, conducting signature verification on ballot envelopes, and, in some states, requiring witness signatures and copies of voters’ IDs with their ballots.

Since 2005, the increased adoption of electronic pollbooks and standardized statewide voting databases has allowed officials to keep more up-to-date records to prevent cases of double voting and other fraud.