Fact check: Biden and Kemp misleadingly describe parts of Georgia elections law

There are a lot of misleading claims being made about Georgia's controversial elections law.And some of them are coming from the top.Both...

Posted: Apr 2, 2021 10:59 AM

There are a lot of misleading claims being made about Georgia's controversial elections law.

And some of them are coming from the top.

Both President Joe Biden, a Democrat who opposes the law, and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, the Republican who signed it last week, misleadingly described the text of the law in interviews this week.

Here is a breakdown of a Biden assertion and three Kemp assertions.

Early voting hours

While criticizing the Georgia law in a Wednesday interview on ESPN, Biden said, "You're going to close a polling place at 5 o'clock when working people just get off? This is all about keeping workin' folks and ordinary folks that I grew up with from being able to vote."

Facts First: This is misleading for two reasons. First, the new law does not change Georgia's Election Day voting hours, which still end at 7 p.m. Second, while the law does set a default end time of 5 p.m. for early voting on weekdays and on Saturdays, counties were already allowed to end early voting at 5 p.m. under the previous law. The new law gives counties the option to offer early voting as late as 7 p.m. if they want to.

The previous law said weekday early voting had to occur at least during "normal business hours," with a county option to add additional hours. That previous law did not explain what hours qualified as "normal." The new law does specify, saying that weekday early voting has to occur during the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. That's not a reduction in hours, just an elimination of vagueness. And the new law goes on to say that counties can choose to extend early voting to as early as 7 a.m. and as late as 7 p.m.

The new law also says that early voting has to be open at least between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on two Saturdays during primary elections and general elections. (Additional weekend days are optional.) That's an increase in mandatory weekend hours compared to previous law, which required only one Saturday of early voting from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. And the new law says counties can go from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends if they want to.

Atlanta's Fulton County and some other major Democratic-dominated counties did not have early voting hours later than 7 p.m. in 2020, so the law would not force them into reductions in hours in primaries and general elections. (For runoff elections, the law eliminates two weeks of mandatory early voting statewide and eliminates five weeks of the campaign in total.)

At the White House press briefing on Thursday, press secretary Jen Psaki defended Biden's claim about Georgia polls being closed at 5 p.m. -- versions of which he had made before -- by saying that the new law "standardizes the ending of voting every day at 5." But Psaki then conceded that the law "gives options to expand" beyond 5 p.m.

There is one caveat here. Even experts on election law told us the wording of the new law is confusing about weekday early voting hours in particular. (You can read the wording for yourself on pages 59 and 60.) But Kemp's press secretary, Mallory Blount, told CNN that the law says 7 am to 7 pm weekday voting is allowed; the office of the secretary of state, Republican Brad Raffensperger, told CNN its lawyers interpret the provision the same way; University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock said this is how he reads it as well; and University of Kentucky law professor Joshua Douglas, an election law expert, said that although the wording is open to different readings, the "stronger reading" is that it allows weekday extensions to 7 am and 7 p.m.

However, Rick Hasen, a professor and election law expert at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, said that because the weekday language is "not crystal clear," he worries that there could be litigation if counties decide to go later than 5 p.m. But he said he is pleased Georgia leaders are supporting the broader interpretation.

The food and water provision

In a Monday interview with Breitbart News, Kemp rejected criticism of a provision of the law that imposes restrictions on handing voters food and drink. (Some voters faced hours-long lines in Georgia's June 2020 primaries and during the general election early voting period in October 2020.) Among other things, he said: "It just keeps, you know, the NRA or Sierra Club or whatever special interest group -- people that are running for office -- from handing out food or water in the line, so it's not as outrageous as people are making it out to be."

In a Wednesday interview on CNBC, Kemp made an additional claim about the provision. He said that not only can voters bring their own food and water but that "people can serve and hand out bottles of water and food as long as they're outside the 150-foot boundary of a polling location."

Facts First: Both claims are misleading. While the law does say people can't hand out or offer money or gifts, including food and drink, to voters within 150 feet of a polling location, it also says people can't do so "within 25 feet of any voter standing in line to vote" -- in other words, even if the voters are farther than 150 feet from the building. And the restriction on handing out food and water does not "just" cover special interest groups and people running for office. The provision says that "any person" -- not just a person engaged in electioneering -- is forbidden from giving or offering voters money or gifts, including food and drink, within 150 feet of a polling place, within 25 feet of voters in line, or inside the polling place.

The restriction on giving out food and drink is contained in the same paragraph as a provision restricting campaign activity, such as soliciting votes and distributing campaign material, in the vicinity of voting locations. But the food and drink provision does not only cover campaigners.

Kemp was correct when he said in both interviews that the law permits county officials to provide water to voters. The law says staff can set out "self-service water from an unattended receptacle."

Drop boxes

Speaking to both Breitbart News and CNBC, Kemp suggested it is inaccurate to say that Georgia is taking away ballot drop boxes. He explained that the law imposes a legislative requirement for every county to have a drop box, while in 2020, drop boxes were optional and only permitted under a temporary pandemic-related rule from the state elections board.

To Breitbart, Kemp criticized media coverage that made it seem like "we're just loading them all up in a truck and gonna junk 'em." He said that "drop boxes were never even allowed in our state before this [2020] election, and the only reason they were done this election was because of a public health state of emergency ... what we're doing is we're putting that into the law."

To CNBC, Kemp said, "Once the public health state of emergency goes away, the drop box would have gone away with them." He added, "People act like we're taking something away -- it never existed until the pandemic, it was done by emergency rule, not by legislative action."

Facts First: Kemp's claim is misleading because of another significant omission. Even when pressed by CNBC, he did not acknowledge that the law imposes strict limits on the number of drop boxes per county -- which will force some counties to make available far fewer drop boxes than they made available in 2020. Fulton County, for example, says it would have to go from 38 drop boxes in the November election to eight.

Kemp is correct that the law cements drop boxes in actual legislation rather than making them reliant on the temporary pandemic order. He is also correct that the new law requires each county to have at least one drop box. But his argument is incomplete at best when he declines to explain that some counties will be forbidden from using the majority of the drop boxes they put out last year. A reduction from 38 boxes under a temporary rule to eight boxes under a permanent law is still a reduction.

The law says counties must have one drop box. But it adds that, if they want additional boxes, they can have one for every 100,000 active registered voters in the county or one for every advance voting location in the county, whichever number is smaller.

The law also shortens the hours drop boxes are available. Under the pandemic rule, drop boxes could be located outside, open 24 hours a day, and open until the evening of Election Day. Under the law, the boxes must be located at elections offices or inside early voting locations and can only be available during the hours that early voting is available -- again, a maximum of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and only on certain days. (If the governor declares an emergency, the boxes can be placed outdoors.)

Terre Haute
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 75°
Robinson
Partly Cloudy
72° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 72°
Indianapolis
Partly Cloudy
74° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 74°
Rockville
Partly Cloudy
73° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 73°
Casey
Partly Cloudy
76° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 76°
Brazil
Partly Cloudy
75° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 75°
Marshall
Partly Cloudy
75° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 75°
Partly Cloudy, Warm & Muggy
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

Latest Video

Image

TH Rex drop 11th straight

Image

New mural, honoring veterans, on the way to downtown Terre Haute

Image

The need for plasma donations

Image

Broadband survey results find need of expanded coverage in Knox County

Image

Mental health and sports

Image

Accused Michigan prison escapee arrested in the Wabash Valley

Image

What do the new CDC masking guidelines mean for us?

Image

Kevin talks storms followed by a cool down

Image

Redistricting in Indiana

Image

CDC announces new mask guidelines

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Cases: 1413490

Reported Deaths: 25847
CountyCasesDeaths
Cook56254010557
DuPage936411321
Will779841042
Lake691321026
Kane60062816
Winnebago34671524
Madison32372533
St. Clair29976526
McHenry29561299
Peoria23690346
Champaign21566158
Sangamon19585245
McLean18846194
Tazewell17470308
Rock Island15375329
Kankakee14741224
Kendall13481100
LaSalle12954254
Macon11177215
DeKalb10270122
Vermilion10224154
Adams9557128
Williamson8117138
Whiteside7244174
Boone693380
Ogle629184
Grundy605579
Clinton590693
Coles5868101
Knox5728157
Jackson543565
Henry515270
Macoupin497090
Livingston494193
Woodford491883
Stephenson488086
Franklin485878
Effingham482674
Marion4761118
Jefferson4662123
Monroe451494
Randolph430387
Lee423754
Morgan412592
Fulton410559
Logan407066
Christian394275
Bureau384987
Montgomery384274
Iroquois329468
Perry328262
Fayette326856
McDonough305851
Jersey278752
Saline270657
Douglas263536
Union249041
Lawrence244627
Shelby235938
Crawford218026
Bond213624
Cass210327
Carroll204837
Pike200353
Ford194050
Hancock193732
Clark190434
Wayne189653
Warren186450
Jo Daviess183524
Richland181440
White180226
Edgar179742
Washington169225
Moultrie167928
Mason163547
De Witt161129
Piatt155814
Johnson154516
Clay154043
Greene152834
Mercer151734
Wabash147612
Massac143240
Cumberland131019
Menard127912
Jasper116818
Marshall110319
Hamilton89516
Schuyler8127
Brown8086
Pulaski7407
Stark66425
Edwards63512
Calhoun5382
Henderson53414
Gallatin5044
Scott5031
Putnam4943
Alexander48911
Hardin39612
Pope3394
Unassigned632432
Out of IL120

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Cases: 767409

Reported Deaths: 13980
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1054251805
Lake569191030
Allen42938698
St. Joseph37313568
Hamilton37298426
Elkhart29749470
Tippecanoe23479230
Vanderburgh23201405
Porter19573327
Johnson18822392
Hendricks18072321
Madison13548346
Clark13533198
Vigo12834256
LaPorte12566225
Monroe12546178
Delaware11143198
Howard10672237
Kosciusko9777124
Hancock8740150
Bartholomew8262157
Warrick8069157
Floyd8027182
Grant7366181
Wayne7233201
Boone7184105
Morgan6910143
Marshall6332116
Dubois6274118
Cass6090111
Dearborn601278
Noble599290
Henry5947111
Jackson516377
Shelby510898
Lawrence4922127
Gibson462696
Montgomery458192
Clinton455255
DeKalb455285
Harrison453577
Whitley415745
Huntington415582
Steuben410660
Miami405573
Jasper401155
Knox388391
Putnam385062
Wabash369083
Adams352956
Ripley351271
Jefferson341886
White339654
Daviess3090100
Wells303581
Greene293485
Decatur292593
Fayette286364
Posey281735
Scott280058
LaGrange277572
Clay273348
Washington254037
Randolph247783
Jennings239449
Spencer238731
Fountain235250
Starke229859
Owen222659
Sullivan221343
Fulton208345
Jay202932
Carroll197322
Orange191156
Perry189739
Vermillion180844
Rush177527
Tipton172747
Franklin171935
Parke155216
Pike141734
Blackford138032
Pulaski123648
Newton123036
Benton109715
Brown106043
Crawford105616
Martin92515
Warren87715
Switzerland8348
Union73610
Ohio58111
Unassigned0428