Georgia was the subject of a storm of litigation over the 2020 election, threats of violence and harassment toward election officials and voters, and targeted attempts to change the election results — including an hour-long phone call in which Trump urged the state’s top election official to “find” enough votes for him to win. Despite their universal failure in court, many of the Big Lie–inspired false claims made in these lawsuits motivated legislative provisions that will be in place for the 2022 elections.
Georgia Senate Bill 202
GA S.B. 202, enacted last year, responds to the lies pushed in these baseless lawsuits with remarkable precision. In one case, a plaintiff falsely claimed that private funds were provided to Fulton County to “pay ballot harvesters” and to “pay for . . . the plan to remove the poll watchers from one political party so that the critical responsibility of determining . . . the validity of the count could be conducted without oversight.” She also alleged that “absentee voting records demonstrate illegal votes being counted and legal votes not being counted” in excess of 50,000 votes.
Other cases claimed that the state’s use of drop boxes somehow increased the risk of fraud — another popular Big Lie conspiracy theory. Courts rejected these lawsuits, and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s testimony to the January 6 committee thoroughly debunked these claims.
However, S.B. 202 seemingly validates these allegations by prohibiting local election administrators from accepting funding from private sources and expanding the legal rights of poll watchers to observe elections without constraints by election administrators. The law also limits the availability of drop boxes and restricts access to mail voting by imposing stricter identification requirements for absentee voters and shortening the window to apply for absentee ballots. Tellingly, one of S.B. 202’s cosponsors echoed widespread conspiracies supporting the Big Lie, suggesting in an op-ed that unreliable mail ballots changed the outcome of certain races in 2020.
Georgia Senate Bill 441
Although there is absolutely no evidence of widespread voter fraud in Georgia or any other state, S.B. 441 grants the Georgia Bureau of Investigation the authority to investigate voter fraud and refer any perceived violations for prosecution. This bill directs even more resources toward investigating fraud and opens up the risk of politically motivated prosecutions, which is particularly concerning when viewed alongside the range of new penalties created by S.B. 202.
In addition to challenging certain voting methods, election denialists directly attacked local election officials in court, blaming them for the results of the 2020 election and accusing them of misconduct. Over a dozen lawsuits were filed against county boards of elections, alleging fraud and seeking to block certification or overturn the election results.
The Georgia legislature responded to these cases as well by wresting power from certain county boards of elections, creating the potential for partisan interference in the administration of elections. These county boards are responsible for administering elections, counting votes, and certifying results. S.B. 202 grants the state board of elections the authority to interfere with how local elections are run by removing professional election officials and taking control of election administration in specific jurisdictions.
Additionally, Georgia passed at least eight county-specific bills since 2020 that restructure local boards of elections. These restructurings have often led to greater partisan advantage and in particular have removed Black Democrats from several boards.