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Fact check: Republicans falsely equate Georgia and Colorado election laws

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Republicans have blasted Major League Baseball for moving its All-Star Game from Georgia to Colorado because of Georgia’s controversial new elections law.

Some of these Republicans are trying to convince Americans that baseball officials are not only wrong but hypocritical. On television and on social media, they have claimed or strongly suggested that the new Georgia law is no stricter than Colorado’s elections law.

That’s not even close to true.

Colorado sends a mail ballot to every active registered voter. Because of this policy and others outlined below, experts say Colorado is one of the states that make it easiest to vote; David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, a nonprofit, said it is “arguably at the very top of the list of easiest states to vote.”

There is debate even among experts about where precisely Georgia ranks — but it is very obviously more restrictive than Colorado. The Republican attempts to portray Colorado as Georgia’s equivalent have either been plain false or lacking in essential context.

Yet they have quickly made their way around the right-wing media ecosystem. Echoing assertions uttered by others on Fox News, network reporter Peter Doocy asked White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Tuesday if the White House is concerned that Major League Baseball is moving the game to a state “where voting regulations are very similar to Georgia.” Doocy’s premise was simply inaccurate.

Here is a look at the many problems with some of the Republican claims about Colorado and Georgia.

Colorado has far fewer in-person voters

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, and various other Republicans have pointed out that Georgia’s new law mandates 17 days of in-person early voting, while Colorado’s in-person early voting begins 15 days prior to Election Day.

This is true — but leaves out a critical piece of context: Colorado, unlike Georgia, sends out a mail ballot to every active registered voter. And the overwhelming majority of Colorado voters choose to vote by mail rather than in a voting booth.

In the 2020 general election, 94% of Colorado ballots cast were mail ballots, the state Secretary of State’s office says. In the 2016 general election, it was 93%.

In Georgia, where voters have to request a mail ballot if they want one, about 26% of votes in the 2020 general election were mail-in votes.

The new Georgia law also prohibits the state from moving in the direction of Colorado-style mail-dominated elections. The law says mail ballots can only be provided upon a specific request from a voter. And it prohibits the secretary of state and other government officials from sending even absentee ballot applications to every active registered voter, as Raffensperger, a Republican, did for the 2020 primaries on account of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Colorado offers more access on Election Day

Scott claimed in his tweet that Atlanta “has more day-of voting rights than CO.”

If he was talking about Election Day rights, he was wrong.

Colorado keeps its ballot drop boxes open until the evening of Election Day. Georgia did the same in 2020 — but now, under its new law, cannot do so in the future. Under the new law, drop boxes can only be available during the early voting period, which closes on the Friday before Election Day.

In addition, Colorado allows people to register to vote on Election Day and then cast a ballot. In Georgia, the registration deadline is the fifth Monday before Election Day.

Colorado offers more drop box access in general

It’s not just Election Day during which Colorado offers greater drop box access than Georgia does.

Under Georgia’s new law, each county has to have at least one drop box. But the law also says that each county can’t have more than one additional drop box per early voting site or per 100,000 active registered voters, whichever number is smaller.

This provision will mean that big Georgia counties will have far fewer drop boxes than big Colorado counties. Atlanta’s Fulton County, with a population of over 1 million in 2019, says it would have to go from 38 drop boxes in the November election to eight in the future. Denver, with a population of about 727,000 in 2019, also had 38 drop boxes in November, and it is not being forced into a sharp reduction.

In fact, Colorado’s most populous counties are required to have a minimum of one drop box per 12,500 active voters. (The requirements get gradually smaller for counties of smaller sizes.) In 2020, Denver was required to have a minimum of 35 drop boxes.

That’s not all. The Georgia law requires drop boxes to be moved inside elections offices or early voting locations (except during emergencies declared by the governor), where they can only be available during early voting hours — at most, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Colorado’s drop boxes will continue to be available outdoors 24 hours a day.

Colorado has looser voter identification requirements

Some Republicans have wrongly hinted that Colorado’s voter identification requirements are equivalent to Georgia’s. Others have been straight-up false, inaccurately claiming that Colorado requires photo identification in particular.

In one viral tweet, which was deleted after we fact-checked it on Twitter, Greg Price of the right-wing website The Daily Caller claimed that Colorado “requires photo ID to vote in person.” Kemp said on Fox News that, from what he has been told, “they also have a photo ID requirement.” And Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton said on Fox News: “I got some shocking, in fact terrible news for all of your viewers, especially for all of the social justice warriors at Major League Baseball: Colorado appears to be require photo identification to vote in person.”

None of that is true. Colorado allows both photo ID and non-photo ID for in-person voting; the list of acceptable non-photo identification includes a recent utility bill, bank statement, government check, or paycheck; a Medicare card; or a copy of a birth certificate. (The full list is online for anyone to read.) Georgia, conversely, does require photo ID for in-person voting.

So Scott’s tweet that both states have “voter ID” is correct, but the two states do not have the same voter ID requirements even for in-person voting. And under the new Georgia law, the states are even more different when it comes to mail voting.

Under the previous Georgia law, elections officials validated voters’ identities by checking the signatures attached to their mail-in ballots. Under the new law, voters have to provide a Georgia driver’s license number, the number on their state identification card, or the last four digits of their Social Security number. If they don’t have any of that, they can provide one of several alternative forms of identification, such as a copy of a utility bill, bank statement or government check.

In Colorado, a signature is sufficient for mail voters other than first-time Colorado voters who have not previously provided their ID to elections officials in the state.

Supporters of the Georgia law are entitled to argue that its ID provision for mail voting is not especially onerous given how many options it gives voters. But it’s just wrong to suggest the Georgia provision is the same as Colorado’s provision.

Colorado has a softer restriction on handouts to voters

The now-deleted viral tweet by Price, of The Daily Caller, noted that Colorado also has a restriction on people handing out food and drink to voters waiting in line.

That’s true. But the restriction is way narrower than the much-criticized food and water restriction in the new Georgia law.

Colorado says campaign workers can hand out “water, snacks, and other items” to voters in line. It just says that these people can’t wear clothing or accessories with the name of a candidate or party if they are within 100 feet of the polling place.

The Georgia, law, conversely, says that “any person” is banned from handing out any gift to voters, including food and drink, within either 25 feet of any voter in line or within 150 feet of the polling place. The only exception is for elections staff who set up unattended water stations.

Other provisions

It’s worth noting that the Republicans who are likening the Georgia law to Colorado law are not mentioning some of the most important provisions of the Georgia law.

For example, the Georgia law allows the Republican-controlled state elections board to hand-pick someone to take temporary control of a county elections board that the state board has deemed to be in violation of elections law or state board policies. The state board is allowed to seize control of four county elections systems at a time.

Article Topic Follows: National Politics

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