Jon Greenbaum, the chief counsel for the nonpartisan Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said Republicans were engaged in an “all-out effort to change the voting rules in lots of ways that would allow for greater opportunity for them to challenge the eligibility of electors,” and that the party would “add micromanagement by state legislatures to the process of running an election.”
State Representative Barry Fleming, a Republican who has been a chief sponsor of the bills in Georgia, did not respond to requests for comment. In a hearing on the bill this month, he defended the provisions, saying, “We as legislators decide how we will actually be elected, because we decide our own boards of elections and those of the counties we are elected from.”
Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, a Republican, has not weighed in publicly on the changes to election administration and oversight. Asked for comment, his office offered only that he was in favor of “strengthened voter ID protections.”
At the local level, at least nine Republican counties in Georgia have passed local legislation since November dissolving their current election boards — often composed of three Republicans and two Democrats — and replacing them with a new membership entirely appointed by the county commissioner, resulting in single-party boards.
A new law in Iowa restricting access to voting also targeted county election officials. In addition to barring them from proactively sending out absentee ballot applications, the bill introduced criminal charges for officials who fail to follow the new voting rules.
The threat of increased punishment seemed to be directed at three county election officials in the state, who last year chose to mail absentee ballot applications to all registered voters in their counties, drawing the ire of state Republicans.
“We can be fined heavily now, removed from office,” said one of those officials, Travis Weipert, the Johnson County auditor. “And instead of just saying, ‘Don’t do it again,’ they brought the hammer down on us.”