The State has a constitutional responsibility to protect free and fair elections.
On May 5, Governor Brian Kemp used his veto pen to eliminate $550,000 in state funding that had been appropriated for new voter check in machines designed to lower wait times. Governor Kemp’s veto is just the latest in a series of attacks on free and fair elections that have taken place during his time as Secretary of State and Governor- most notoriously, SB 202 in 2021 that also placed major burdens on local election administrators and registered voters.
This comes on the heels of the General Assembly criminalizing local governments from accepting outside funding to use for elections, where the state argued, without any evidence in support, that outside funding would influence elections. As a result of the Governor’s action, the costs of these machines will fall on local governments.
This is wrong. Small counties, with the least ability to raise revenue, bear a disproportionate cost to run elections. Large counties, while having a greater ability to generate revenue, have many more voters and have additional election complexities and logistical challenges. In either case, it should not be the responsibility of these counties to decide which services they must take funding from to meet what is increasingly becoming an unfunded mandate to run elections in a constitutionally sound fashion.
The State has a constitutional responsibility to protect free and fair elections; however, instead of taking on the responsibility of fully funding elections, the State is passing the buck to local governments while actively obstructing their ability to find funding. It is past time to call on Georgia leaders to recognize their responsibilities to prioritize ballot access for Georgia citizens and fully fund elections.
Ben Lynde is the ACLU of Georgia’s policy counsel.