Though we only met officially for three legislative days this week, it was quite busy. I wanted to share some of the highlights with you.
This week I signed on as co-sponsor on two bills.
The first (no official bill number yet) aims to repeal the controversial 2017 measure (HB 280) commonly known as “Campus Carry”, which allowed for concealed firearms to be carried on college campuses. Numerous studies show that concealed weapons on campus likely lead to increased violence, homicides, and suicides while doing little to promote public safety. University administrators and faculty have gone on record opposing the new law. During my campaign, concerns about gun violence and young people were among the top issues raised by my constituents. As a lawmaker, I have an obligation to promote safe learning environments for our children.
I’m also a co-sponsor for HB 117, which would allow Georgians to vote on Election Day at any polling place in their county as opposed to only at their assigned precinct. Georgia already has the technology to do this; it’s exactly how we currently manage early voting in each county. By letting Georgians choose their voting location based on convenience – the spot closest to their work or their child’s school, for example – we can increase voting access across the board.
ELECTION REFORM & GEORGIA’S NEXT VOTING SYSTEM
Voting is a basic right of citizens in our democracy, yet many Georgians continue to experience challenges when exercising their right to vote. This past election cycle exposed serious issues that undermined voter confidence in the veracity of Georgia’s elections. I expect to see a number of election-reform bills this session. These will likely include repealing “exact match signatures” for absentee ballot voters, delineating procedures related to purging voter rolls, and efforts to ensure the procedures used for absentee and provisional ballots are reasonable, sound, and fair.
I sit on the Democratic Caucus’ Voting Rights Committee, and this week I participated in two different election reform meetings. Both were packed with standing-room-only crowds and legislators — from both sides of the aisle — who are serious about addressing the problems and restoring voter confidence.
The election issue eclipsing all others at the moment is which voting machines Georgia should buy before the 2020 cycle.
I SUPPORT HAND-MARKED PAPER BALLOTS
After delving into this issue, gathering information about the systems in-use and currently available in the U.S., listening to compelling testimony regarding a concerning data anomaly discovered during the past election, hearing the recommendations of tech experts, and considering the costs of the systems, I believe Georgia’s next voting system should use hand-marked paper ballots.
Hand-marked paper ballots are the gold standard when it comes to election integrity. They can’t be hacked. They can’t be mis-programmed or digitally manipulated. There is no barcode that can only be read by a machine, and therefore leaves some level of doubt about whether the vote you think you cast is the one encoded in the barcode. Hand-marked paper ballots are akin to filling out a Scantron form – that thing most of us did in school when taking a standardized test.
As if that weren’t enough, hand-marked paper ballots are significantly cheaper (costing about 80% less than the touch-screen system), more secure, easier for election workers to manage, and they potentially speed up the voting process for individuals thereby decreasing wait times at polling locations. We really shouldn’t settle for a compromise.
In short, hand-marked paper ballots would give Georgia voters what they want and deserve — an election method that restores confidence, a means of voting that isn’t subject to hacking and other cyber threats, an auditable paper-trail for results verification, and a price-tag that would make any fiscal conservative jump for joy. As a Georgia taxpayer, that just sounds like good governance to me.
MEETINGS & GREETINGS
I also had the great pleasure this week to get out and about to different meetings around Atlanta, to meet dignitaries and Atlantans, and even to present an award along the way.
- Attended the first meeting of the Democratic Party’s Voting Rights Caucus.
- Attended the annual Buckhead Coalition Luncheon.
- Attended the Democratic House Caucus Committee hearing on voting machines.
- Attended the Repro Power Hour in support of reproductive rights.
It is my honor to serve as your Representative in the Georgia General Assembly. I encourage you to stay in touch with me and let me know your thoughts on the issues that are important to you.
I can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 404-656-0116. Should you find yourself at the Capitol, my office is located in the Coverdell Legislative Office Building, Suite 409.
You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter.
Rep. Betsy Holland, GA House District 54
The Legislature will resume business on Tuesday, February 5th.