An early voting line outside the South Cobb Regional Library in Mableton (Photo by Beau Evans)

ATLANTA – Republicans and Democrats in the General Assembly are refighting the war over election laws sparked by the controversy that continues to swirl around the 2020 presidential results.

The GOP-controlled Georgia House of Representatives passed legislation Tuesday night Republicans said provides ballot security measures aimed at restoring trust in elections but Democrats criticized as more voter suppression on top of an election law overhaul lawmakers passed last year.

House Bill 1464 passed 98-73 along party lines shortly before 11 p.m. Tuesday. It was the last vote on Crossover Day, the deadline for bills to pass at least one legislative chamber to stay alive for the year.

The 37-page bill includes provisions aimed at securing the chain of custody of ballots.

“Chain of custody is important,” said Rep. David Knight, R-Griffin. “This is about the integrity of elections [so] everybody knows the procedures and rules are followed.”

The bill also requires employers to make time for their workers to vote, not just on Election Day but also during the early voting period.

House Democrats’ strongest objections were over a provision giving the Georgia Bureau of Investigation “original jurisdiction” to investigate complaints of election fraud, meaning the agency wouldn’t have to wait to be called into a case by the State Election Board or attorney general’s office.

“The GBI conducting voter fraud investigations … will be used to intimidate Georgia voters and election workers,” said Rep. Derek Mallow, D-Savannah. “This is another attack on the right to vote.”

Rep. Bee Nguyen, D-Atlanta, who is running for secretary of state, reminded lawmakers that Gov. Brian Kemp promised not to push further changes to Georgia’s election laws this year after the legislature passed Senate Bill 202 last year.

Among other things, that bill added a voter ID requirement for absentee ballots and restricted the location of absentee ballot drop boxes.

Nguyen said the new bill is full of unfunded mandates on local elections agencies that increase the burden on election workers.

“This time, we’re targeting our election boards and our election administrators,” she said.

But Rep. James Burchett, R-Waycross, the bill’s chief sponsor, said Democrats’ arguments exaggerate the legislation’s potential impacts.

“This bill does nothing more than add administrative provisions,” he said. “Voter suppression is not in the bill.”

The legislation now moves to the Georgia Senate, where Republicans also hold the majority.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.