State Rep. Barry Fleming, a Republican, sponsored House Bill 531, which passed the House along party lines last week. The bill, which awaits Senate action, curbs the use of drop boxes, changes early voting hours, limits no-excuse absentee voting, and requires ID for absentee voting.
“House Bill 531 is designed to begin to bring back the confidence of our voters back into our election system. A main component of that effort is by enacting several revisions, which will make the administration of elections easier by our local elections officials,” Fleming said last week, according to WABE.
Some advocacy groups, claiming the bill amounts to voter suppression, called for protests against the measure.
“It would have devastating consequences for voting rights in Georgia, and it is absolutely unacceptable that legislators, voting rights advocates, and the people of Georgia have been blindsided by its release,” advocacy group Fair Fight wrote in a tweet.
Around 40 protesters took to the streets in front of the Hancock County courthouse in Sparta on Wednesday, calling for Fleming’s resignation.
“We have lots of protests at the capitol, but when we have protests in our local communities, that sends a message everywhere,” protest participant Jeanne Dufort told a local outlet. “Taxpayers are paying for the guy who’s trying to take their voting rights away.”
The protests prompted Hancock County commissioners to vote 4-0 to ask Fleming to resign. Fleming, who is currently chairman of the House Special Committee on Election Integrity, said that he stepped down after receiving the request.
“Hancock County is a great place. There’s a great board of commissioners there,” he told WXIA-TV. “I enjoyed working with them for, I think, nine years. I only wish them the best.”
Fleming said he did not object to his forced departure, although he said protesters “misunderstand” many of its controversial provisions, according to The Associated Press.
The state House speaker pro tem, Republican Jan Jones, told WABE that the changes to Georgia’s election laws were needed after the controversies of the 2020 election, which saw allegations of voter fraud.
“It’s time again because of the lessons we learned from the implementation of the new voting system and an unprecedented pandemic that revealed extreme stresses in our elections system, such as the need for greater transparency, uniformity, and confidence,” Jones told the outlet.
Fleming has been at the forefront of election integrity efforts, including backing a 2015 effort to purge voter rolls in Hancock County.