Federal judges in Georgia will hear arguments Thursday in Republican-led lawsuits to restrict absentee voting ahead of next month’s Senate runoffs — the first salvos in a GOP effort to change voting rules for future elections following President Donald Trump’s loss in 2020.
Republicans have filed three lawsuits in the state ahead of the Jan. 5 runoffs, in which hundreds of thousands of people have already voted by mail or in person for races that will decide control of the Senate in 2021. The suits primarily target the use of drop-boxes to return absentee ballots, as well as aiming to raise the threshold for signature verifiers to accept absentee ballots.
The net result of the suits, which are backed by a combination of local, state and national Republican Party organizations, would make successfully voting by mail harder in Georgia, which Republicans say is necessary to protect the security of the elections — and others claim is an attempt to suppress votes for Democratic candidates.
The legal efforts are likely just the start of a yearlong push by state Republicans to tighten voting rules in response to the 2020 election, which prompted unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud from Trump, his supporters and other GOP leaders who are convinced that the contest wasn’t fair. Republican lawmakers in Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania, among others, have already announced their intention to seek changes to state election laws next year in response to perceived irregularities, and Trump’s opposition to mail voting in 2020 — coupled with the way those late-counted ballots broke against him in some key states — has destroyed the decades-long bipartisan consensus on expanding the practice.