ATLANTA – After Republicans lost the Presidency in November and two Georgia Senate seats this week among dozens of allegations of voter fraud, it’s not surprising that election reform will be the hot topic when the Republican dominated 156th General Assembly opens Monday under the Gold Dome.
Senate Majority Whip Steve Gooch told Fetch Your News during a phone interview Friday, “There are a lot of questions that haven’t been answered yet. We’ve heard many allegations of fraud and abuse in the system so we’re going to dig deep into our election laws and look at how we do voter verification of advance votes and absentee ballots.”
Gooch, who represents Dawson, White, Lumpkin, Union, Gilmer and Fannin and a small portion of Forsyth County, added, “ I believe personally it should be just as restrictive to vote early and by absentee ballot as it is to vote on Election Day. If you or I go to vote on Election Day, we’re required to show a voter I.D. I believe that requirement should apply to people who vote in advance or by absentee ballot. I think there will be a lot of discussion on that.”
Democrats can be expected to oppose any change in election requirements.
“Democrats will probably try to accuse us of trying to suppress the vote,” Gooch said. “But that is not at all what I would see us doing. I see us as trying to secure the vote and ensure that all votes that are cast are legal votes. I believe there are signs and allegations of voter fraud that need to be further investigated and I hope the GBI and Secretary of State will continue to cooperate by looking into those charges.”
Gooch said he had seen dozens of sworn affidavits signed by poll workers and voters who saw things that did not look proper. “They are due an explanation,” he said. “We have a responsibility to the voters of Georgia that our election process is legal. We have, in my opinion, lost the confidence of the tax payers and voters in Georgia when it comes to elections. We have a little work to do to regain their trust.”
Lawmakers were forced to make major budget cuts last year due to the pandemic but some unanticipated revenue gains in income tax and sales tax may provide an opportunity to restore some of the cuts, especially in the area of public safety and education.
Gooch said he would like to restore some cuts to the state’s reserve fund. “We dipped into that some last year, and we need to keep that fund healthy.”
There will also be some transportation legislation to address freight and logistics issues.
“We will look at ways to use rail more efficiently and increase their usage of our port to get that freight and get some of that freight shifted over to our rail system,” he said.
He also raised the possibility of creating dedicated truck lanes on the interstate highways.
“We’ve been working on ways to get trucks to and from the port through Georgia in a more efficient manner while trying to minimize the impact on our citizens,” he said.
As the 156th General Assembly is gaveled into session Monday, the Senate is made up of 34 Republicans and 22 Democrats while the House has 103 Republicans and 77 Democrats.