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Georgia State Election Board Passes Rule Changes To Implement SB 202

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Credit: Stephen Fowler/GPB News

The Georgia State Election Board approved several voting rule changes Tuesday to help implement the massive 98-page election bill signed into earlier this year.

SB 202 changed virtually every aspect of voting in Georgia, from when and how absentee ballots can be requested to who can serve as a poll worker to how quickly ballots must be counted after the polls close.

While lawmakers are responsible for changing the state law, the State Election Board is tasked with the responsibility for translating those laws into rules that local elections officials must follow to make things happen.

RELATED: 2020 Was Tough But Georgia Election Officials Say Future Elections Won't Be Easier

SEB Rule section 183-1-12 saw the biggest changes, with new language added for topics like pre-election Logic and Accuracy testing of voting equipment, tracking wait times throughout the day at polling places in state or federal elections, new rules for the ballot counting process and provisional voting. Another section, 183-1-14, updates absentee voting procedures.

"If the board adopts the rules as posted, they'll be in effect for the November municipal elections, which I think will be helpful," the Secretary of State's office general counsel Ryan Germany said.

There were several amendments offered in public comment and by Germany, which will be voted on in future SEB meetings.

Democratic board member Sara Tindall Ghazal supported the changes and said it was important the board get things done both correctly and quickly.

"I expect that we'll be seeing a lot of new rules, and hope that that both the members and the public will be engaged in making sure we do get these rules right moving forward for the entire season coming up," she said. "Which there's going to be a tremendous amount of pressure on the counties because so much is changing, so we owe it to the counties to to get this right and to do it as expeditiously as possible."

One change in the new law directs local elections officials to begin counting ballots once the polls close and "shall not cease" until done. The SEB rule says "shall not cease" allows for reasonable breaks, alleviating concerns many smaller counties had about fatigue with smaller staffs.

MORE: Georgia Election Officials Prep For New Voting Law’s Impact

As soon as possible after the polls close, poll managers at each precinct are directed to report the total number of ballots cast on Election Day, including provisional ballots issued. County supervisors will also post the total number of ballots cast on Election Day, in-person early voting and absentee ballots received by the deadline as soon as possible, giving a rough denominator of how many ballots need to be counted.

The new rules also spell out the new provisional ballot procedure, which only counts out-of-precinct votes if it is after 5 p.m. on Election Day and the voter signs a statement that they cannot get to the correct polling place. Absentee ballot application rules are different now, including a requirement that third-party applications have a prominent disclaimer noting who sent the application.

The four-member board also heard a number of high-profile investigations during their meeting, including a dismissal of a case that looked into whether U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker's wife Julie Blanchard illegally voted in Georgia while living in Texas. State investigators found Blanchard has a Georgia driver's license, pays Georgia taxes, has Georgia vehicle registration and other information that suggests she claims Georgia as her primary residence.

An investigation into 129 claims of double voting across 22 South Georgia counties only found evidence of six people casting their ballots twice. Another investigation into "statewide voter suppression" in 2020 was dismissed without comment. While former President Trump and other Republicans have made wild claims about the veracity of absentee ballots placed into drop boxes, two smaller, rural GOP-leaning counties were referred to the Attorney General's office for failing to properly follow rules around documenting ballots received.

Months after SB 202 was signed into law and removed Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger as chair of the State Election Board, the seat is still vacant after both the legislature and the governor's office failed to select a new one.

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