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Georgia Senate committee slims down sweeping voting bill

Georgia State Senate
Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections Chair Rocky Raffle testified before the Georgia Senate Ethics Committee on Monday

After hearing from an array of county elections officials, a Georgia Senate committee gutted a proposal that would make more changes to the state election laws on Tuesday.

As originally written, HB 1464 would have created sweeping new chain of custody rules for ballots, and it would have opened the doors for public inspection of ballots after their cast. That's a provision that opponents say would have created a morass of paperwork for county elections officials.

Rocky Raffle, chair of the Clarke County Board of Elections was one of dozens of county elections officials testifying before the Senate Ethics Committee. He says the original version of the bill was unnecessary.

"There are already procedures in place that deal with these very things they were attempting to 'fix'," Raffle said.

After the Senate committee vote, the 40 page bill emerged as just a page and a half long with just one change to the state laws, a requirement for employers to provide two hours of leave for employees to vote early or on Election Day.

Raffle said that many of the provisions in the original bill would strain county elections offices like Athens Clarke counties to the breaking point.

"We're barely meeting the the minimum requirement of poll workers to conduct a safe and fair and true election," he said. "And imposing additional work is going to cost us in employee morale [and] overtime. It's a huge taxpayer burden."

The stripped down version of HB 1464 now heads back to negotiations between the State House and State Senate, but Raffle says he was glad that senators listened to county elections officials like him.

"There were over 50 people that testified," he said. "We were there for three hours of testimony, and I'm very thankful that that committee took the time to listen and consider what we had to say."

Martin Matheny is WUGA's Program Director and a host and producer of our local news program 'Athens News Matters.' He started at WUGA in 2012 as a part-time classical music host and still hosts WUGA's longest-running local program 'Night Music' which is heard on WUGA and GPB Classical. He lives in Normaltown with his wife, Shaye and dog, Murphy.