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Dec. 6, 2020, 8:22 a.m. EST

Despite no evidence of systematic fraud, Georgia Republicans push for photo ID requirement for mail-in voters

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By Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) — After weathering criticism for certifying President Donald Trump’s election loss to Democrat Joe Biden, Republican officials in Georgia are proposing additional requirements for the state’s vote-by-mail process, despite no evidence of systemic fraud or irregularities.

Two state Senate committees held hearings Thursday to begin a review of Georgia’s voting laws. Republicans are zeroing in on a plan to require a photo ID for ballots cast by mail. Voting rights activists and Democrats argue that the change isn’t necessary and would disenfranchise voters.

Biden beat Trump by just over 12,500 votes in Georgia, with Biden receiving nearly twice as many of the record number of absentee ballots as the Republican president, according to the secretary of state’s office. A recount requested by Trump was wrapping up and wasn’t expected to change the overall outcome.

Trump, who for months has sowed unsubstantiated doubt about the integrity of mail-in votes, has also made baseless claims of widespread fraud in the presidential race in Georgia.

See also: Georgia elections official urges Trump to rein in supporters: ‘Someone’s going to get killed’

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his staff have vehemently rebuffed those claims, stating unequivocally that there is no evidence of systemic errors or fraud in last month’s election. Yet Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp, both Republicans who have been publicly lambasted by Trump, have joined the push to require a photo ID for absentee voting.

“Voters casting their ballots in person must show a photo ID, and we should consider applying that same standard to mail-in balloting,” Kemp said in remarks streamed live online.

Kemp faced accusations of voter suppression during his successful 2018 run for governor against Democrat Stacey Abrams, an election he oversaw as Georgia’s then–secretary of state. He vehemently denied the allegations. Kemp faces re-election — and a possible rematch against Abrams — in 2022.

Trump has said of late that he now views his 2018 endorsement of Kemp as the party’s gubernatorial candidate as an embarrassment and, at a Valdosta, Ga., rally Saturday night pointedly asked Rep. Doug Collins, third-place finisher in a special election for the Senate seat held by Loeffler and a more full-throated Trump defender, whether he might be interested in a gubernatorial tilt.

Raffensperger also has suggested allowing state officials to intervene in counties that have systemic problems with administering elections and broadening the ways in which challenges can be posed to votes cast by residents who don’t live where they say.

From the archives (August 2020): Trump claims he has authority to issue executive order on mail-in ballots

The photo ID idea has support among several members of the state legislature, including Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan. “I don’t think there should be different standards for the same process,” Dugan said in an interview.

Republican House Speaker David Ralston has been skeptical of voting by mail, telling a local news outlet in April that increased mail voting “will be extremely devastating to Republicans and conservatives in Georgia.” Some political analysts have said that typically more Democrats than Republicans opt for mail-in ballots, but a University of Florida researcher has said the data showed the opposite . Until the Nov. 3 election the partisan difference was broadly viewed as not particularly consequential nor electorally decisive.

From the archives (December 2019): Trump campaign adviser tells Wisconsin Republicans in secret recording that voting-place tactics will be stepped up

Ralston later said he was not talking about his party losing an advantage but the potential for fraud. “We must do everything in our power to ensure votes are not stolen, cast fraudulently or plagued by administrative errors,” he said in a statement this week.

Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs said in an interview with The Associated Press that currently anyone who knows someone’s name, address and date of birth can request an absentee ballot on that person’s behalf. She said that while signature matches provide some security for mail-in ballots, the process should be shored up.

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