Georgia election law changes effect on the 2022 midterms? To get out the vote, start now.
This is a commentary by opinion columnist Adam Van Brimmer.
Casting a vote in a Georgia election is harder today than two years ago, but doing so is still easy.
The Georgia General Assembly hasn’t so much set up hurdles to jump as airport security belt barriers to navigate with voting reforms enacted since the 2020 election. With patience and a minimal amount of planning, you can weave your way through the bureaucratic queue and cast your ballot for the Nov. 8 midterms.
If you’re a stubborn, “I’ll show them” type like me, you’re even more motivated to vote now than before.
The Savannah Morning News and our sister newspapers across the country have published a “Voting Rights Guide.” The package of stories and data examines the voting laws across all 50 states and how those election rules have evolved since the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, meant to end the Jim Crow era.
Voting Rights Guide: A state-by-state analysis of voting rights in the United States
Voting in Georgia: For nearly 60 years, Georgia's voting rights laws have shifted with the political winds
Georgia gets special attention, as our state was among those to make several reforms in the wake of false allegations of fraud made by the election loser, Donald Trump, and his sycophants. The Election Integrity Act of 2021 tightened laws around absentee balloting and oversight of local election boards. Another voting measure passed earlier this year gave state law enforcement investigative powers.
Cries of “voter suppression” have been heard frequently since the Republican-led state legislature jammed through the new restrictions. President Joe Biden called the reforms “Jim Crow 2.0.”
But the time for protestations is now behind us. Shut up and queue up — to get registered, to get a state ID and to plan for how to cast your ballot, be it absentee, early in-person or in your neighborhood precinct on Election Day.
What can you do to prep for election?
Georgia’s absentee ballot application period opened Aug. 22, 78 days before the Nov. 8 election. To get the ballot, you will need to be a registered voter and have an approved form of photo ID.
Contrary to popular belief, this is not new. Georgia has long required proof of identity to get an absentee ballot, including in 2020. The reform comes later in the process — voters will need to write in their state ID number or attach a photocopy of a form of valid ID when they return the completed ballot as well. Previously, officials verified absentee ballots by signature match.
For those who don’t have a photo ID, such as a driver’s license, get on it. The state offers a free voting ID card, and you can get one at the county registrar’s office or the driver’s license bureau. In Savannah, both those HQs are in the same complex at 1117 Eisenhower Dr. Bring a government-issued birth certificate, your voter registration documentation and a copy of a utility bill.
If you don’t have a government birth certificate, call the health department in the county in which you were born. They’ll have it.
Town Square: Election officials must do more to ensure Georgia voters have photo IDs
Is Georgia's election law voter suppression?: Courts, not Congress, the right place to decide
Registering to vote is easy, and you still have six weeks to do so ahead of the Oct. 11 deadline. You can do it online at registertovote.sos.ga.gov.
Once you have a photo ID, the rest is figuring out the best time for you to vote based on your schedule. You don’t need an excuse or to demonstrate a hardship to get an absentee ballot in Georgia. In-person early voting starts Oct. 17 and will be held on weekdays and select Saturdays at locations across the county.
On Election Day, polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in a precinct close to your home.
Don't let them suppress your vote
Georgians have voted in record numbers in the last two major elections. The Democratic turnout has grown significantly, as evidenced by gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’ near-miss in 2018 and statewide wins by Biden and U.S. Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in 2020.
The “purpling” of Georgia, not Trump’s Big Lie, is the real motivation behind the voting reforms of the last two years. Appeasing the conspiracy theorists among the GOP base was just a side benefit of passing election integrity laws.
Just as the Democrats once manipulated voting laws to their benefit when they held power in Georgia, the Republicans are doing likewise. As state GOP officials like to remind us in justifying their changes, when the Democrats were in the majority in Georgia two decades ago, no-excuse absentee voting didn’t exist. Neither did early in-person voting. You couldn’t register to vote from your mobile phone (granted, there were no mobile phones).
When those in power feel threatened, they take evasive maneuvers. They see the potential for minor obstacles to make less-engaged citizens throw up their hands in disgust and refuse to participate in the process. If that's voter suppression, so be it.
Voting is not just a right, it’s a responsibility. Like any responsibility, voting requires effort. Don’t let partisan manipulators disenfranchise you. Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Independent - no matter your ideology, your vote matters.
Contact Van Brimmer at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @SavannahOpinion.
This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Georgia election reform laws make voting harder but manageable