Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed a bill on Thursday introducing extensive voting restrictions in response to turnout in the 2020 general election.
However, the new legislation, endorsed by the state’s Republicans, is not just aimed at voters in Georgia. This also applies to local election workers. It will forbid these workers to take breaks while counting ballots and will deprive the Secretary of State of some of his authority.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger became a major target in efforts to restrict voting in Georgia after refusing to help former President Donald Trump dismiss the 2020 election results.
While the changes are expected to be challenged in court, preventing electoral workers from taking breaks does not violate state labor laws.
“Neither the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) nor Georgia law mandate that workers be given breaks or meals,” the state Department of Labor said.
The department notes that many employers offer breaks and meal times at their own discretion, often between five and 20 minutes. The FLSA requires that Georgia workers be paid for these shorter breaks, but employers are not required to compensate them for periods longer than 30 minutes that workers are not required to do work.
“It’s hard to see this as constructive as lawmakers address electoral repression and lay the groundwork for taking over electoral bodies in the county,” said Andrea Young, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Georgia. said the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
In response to the legislation, the ACLU has announced that it will consider any legal option to combat the new changes in Georgia’s electoral process.
A poll worker counts Fulton County’s ballots at the State Farm Arena on November 4, 2020 in Atlanta. New laws in Georgia will prohibit poll workers from taking breaks while counting their ballots.
Jessica McGowan / Stringer
The bill that Kemp signed is less stringent than its original drafts, but introduced a number of restrictions, including limiting tax boxes, introducing new oversight over the county’s electoral boards, tightening rules on who is using provisional Ballot papers are allowed to vote, and shortening the runoff election cycle by more than half from nine weeks to four It will also be an offense to offer food or water to voters standing in line.
Kemp, who signed the new law, said he did not regret “taking another step to make our elections fair and safe”.
“There is no doubt that there were many alarming problems with the handling of the elections and those problems created a crisis of confidence in the ballot box here in Georgia,” said the governor.
The bill is one of more than 250 Republicans tabled across the country after Trump lost the election to President Joe Biden. Biden criticized the efforts on Thursday and called the measures “un-American”.
“It makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle,” said the president.
Early iterations of the bill aimed to restrict Sunday’s voting in what was seen as an attempt to target the “Souls to the Polls” initiatives run by the black churches.
The law was passed by party line votes on Thursday afternoon in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. No Democrats voted for the measure.