by Nyamekye Daniel
Election policy reform will be a top priority for Georgia lawmakers when the General Assembly convenes next week, House Speaker David Ralston said Thursday.
Ralston said he plans to appoint a special committee on election integrity to increase confidence in the state’s voting process.
“That committee will have two primary charges,” Ralston said. “First to keep our elections open and accessible to all registered voters, and second to ensure proper oversight and security of our elections.”
Lawmakers have held a series of election hearings where members of President Donald Trump’s legal team, his supporters, residents and poll workers have testified about discrepancies in the Nov. 3 election. Ralston, however, said the committee would not focus on the events of the past. Instead it would focus on changes that could be made in the future.
Forthcoming on the committee’s agenda are possible changes to the state’s absentee ballot process and the elimination of nonpartisan blanket primary elections.
During an election investigation hearing last month, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger asked the House Governmental Affairs Committee to eliminate signature matching and no-excuse absentee voting. Ralston has called for an amendment to the state constitution that would allow the General Assembly to elect the secretary of state instead of Georgia voters.
Also at the forefront of the session in the House is COVID-19 relief, Ralston said.
“Many Georgians have been directly impacted by this virus, either personally or through family,” he said. “Many others have been indirectly impacted by a reduction in wages, a loss of a job, or the closure of a business.”
Lawmakers also will discuss renewing COVID-19 liability protections for small businesses, the speaker said.
Ralston also expects legislation to be fomented from House committees’ studies on citizen’s arrest law, Georgia’s freight network and mental health.
“I think that we have relegated our mental health system to being sort of a second-class citizen in our health care system for much too long now,” Ralston said. “This is a disease that touches almost every family in Georgia, and the treatment options are quite frankly, really disappointingly limited, and particularly in rural Georgia.”
The Georgia Legislature will return to the state capitol Monday for the 40-day session, which must be concluded with a balanced budget. Ralston said he expects the funding levels to stay the same, unlike last session, when budget writers reduced spending by 10% for fiscal year 2021.
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Nyamekye Daniel has been a journalist for four years. She was the managing editor for the South Florida Media Network and a staff writer for The Miami Times. Daniel’s work has also appeared in the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and The New York Times. Daniel is a staff reporter for The Center Square.
Background Photo “Georgia Capital” by andre m. CC BY-SA 3.0.