ZACHARY: Just not the right time for bonuses

DomeLight by Jim Zachary 

Voters showed up in record numbers across the state of Georgia in 2020. 

The turnout for the U.S. Senate runoff elections to begin 2021 was unprecedented. 

Despite a rough rollout of new voting machines leading up the General Election, when Election Day rolled around it went rather smoothly with only a handful of issues across the state. 

Every allegation of voting irregularity was investigated. 

There was no systemic, widespread voter fraud that would have changed the outcome of the election. 

To be perfectly clear, anyone who intentionally votes illegally should be prosecuted. 

No one who is not legally registered to vote should vote in our elections and their votes should not be counted. 

Lawmakers, however, appear to be focused on fixing a problem that does not exist, once again. 

Posturing and playing to a partisan base by appearing to clean up a broken election system is disingenuous and little more than political theater. 

The truth is, mail-in voting worked. 

Mail-in voting does not favor any party or any candidate. 

What it does do is allow people, especially the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, to vote safely during a pandemic. 

All of us certainly hope we never face a year like 2020 again, and that we never again have to vote during a pandemic. 

What we learned, however, is that we can build a better mousetrap when it comes to how we conduct our elections. 

When it is all said and done, mail-in early voting is essentially no more or less secure than on-site Election Day voting. 

The integrity of elections is protected by your friends and neighbors. 

Poll workers, poll watchers and elections office staff safeguard local elections and always have. 

Not liking the outcome of an election and thinking the election process itself is broken are not the same thing. 

While exact match legislation that potentially kicks out legitimate voters because of a minor discrepancy on documents is problematic and should be addressed, the focus on making it more difficult to mail in a ballot is misplaced attention. 

Every lawmaker from every district should want as many people as possible to vote in every election, just so long as they are legally registered to vote. Making it more difficult for people to register or to vote, whether in person or by mail, is nothing short of voter suppression. 

The Georgia General Assembly has a lot on its table this legislative session, not the least of which is ratifying a complicated, and tight, budget, keeping our schools operational and battling the COVID-19 pandemic. The amount of time being spent on trying to rewrite election laws and effectively reduce mail-in balloting in Georgia is simply unwarranted. 

Jim Zachary is the editor of the Valdosta Daily Times, CNHI's director of Newsroom Training and Development and president emeritus of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation. 

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