After pulling its All-Star game out of Georgia because of the state’s new voting law, Major League Baseball picked Colorado for its summer classic — setting off an error-filled debate over which state has more restrictive voting laws.
Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina and Republican Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia were among those booting the ball when it came to comparing the two states.
Kemp signed the Georgia legislation into law on March 25. Since then, the law has been criticized by Democrats and voting rights advocates. In an April 2 statement, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced he would move the 2021 All-Star game out of Atlanta, saying the sport “fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans.”
On April 6, MLB said Coors Field in Denver would be the site of the All-Star game. Here we look at the requirements for voting in each state.
In a tweet, Scott noted that both states have voter ID laws. That’s true, but Colorado’s law is far less restrictive for both in-person and mail-in voting.
In an interview on Fox News, Kemp went further, falsely saying from “what I’m being told, they also have a photo ID requirement.”
Colorado requires voters to show identification when they vote in person, but its lengthy list of acceptable forms of ID includes some that do not include photos.
A Colorado voter, for example, can provide a “copy of a current (within the last 60 days) utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows the name and address of the elector,” according to the Colorado secretary of state’s website.
Colorado voters who cannot provide one of the many forms of acceptable ID can cast a provisional ballot. “To vote a provisional ballot you will be required to complete a provisional ballot affidavit that includes a voter registration form,” the secretary of state’s website says in an FAQ on provisional ballots. “As long as the affidavit contains all the required information and you are eligible to register you will be registered for the next election, regardless of whether the provisional ballot is counted.”
Colorado election officials have at least nine days to verify that the person is an eligible voter and count the ballot.
In Georgia, voters must provide a photo ID when voting in person, according to the secretary of state. If Georgia voters do not have a photo ID, they can cast a provisional ballot — but state law only allows three days to resolve the problem and count the ballot.
Unlike Colorado, the Peach State also requires additional action on the part of the voter during that three-day period to resolve the identification issue. For that reason, the National Conference of State Legislatures describes Colorado’s voter ID law as “non-strict,” and Georgia’s as “strict.”
In non-strict states, “some voters without acceptable identification have an option to cast a ballot that will be counted without further action on the part of the voter,” the NCSL says. In strict states, votes will only count if the voter takes additional steps — such as returning to the election office with an acceptable photo ID.
“If you vote a provisional ballot because you did not have acceptable identification, you will have three days from the close of the polls to present acceptable identification to your county registrar office for your vote to count,” according to the Georgia secretary of state.
Perhaps the most striking difference between the two states is their mail-in ballot policies.
In Colorado, every voter is automatically sent a ballot about three weeks before the election. Colorado is one of five states where voters do not need to request a ballot. Only those registered for the first time need to provide a copy of their ID, which, as we’ve explained, doesn’t have to be a photo ID, along with their mail-in ballot. After that, voters are verified via signature match.
In 2020, a whopping 94% of Colorado voters cast their ballots by mail, according to the secretary of state’s office.
By contrast, Georgia is a no-excuse mail-in ballot state, which means any voter can request a mail-in ballot without providing an excuse. But they do have to submit a request for a mail-in ballot. In 2020, about a third of the votes in Georgia were cast by mail-in ballot.
The “Election Integrity Act of 2021” signed into law by Kemp on March 25 will make a number of changes to absentee ballot rules. For example, the law will reduce the window during which voters can request a mail-in ballot. And ballots will be sent out a few weeks later than before. State and local governments are prohibited from sending unrequested mail-in ballot applications.
There are also new ID rules attached to verifying mail-in ballots in Georgia. Those requesting and returning mail-in ballots must supply a driver’s license number, state ID number or a copy of an acceptable voter ID. Previously, the state checked signatures to verify voters.
“The law also adds an ID requirement to the process for requesting an absentee ballot, after previously only requiring voters to sign an application,” Politico wrote when the Georgia Legislature passed the bill.
Early Voting Days
Scott and Kemp highlighted the number of early voting days in the two states: 17 in Georgia and 15 in Colorado. But that ignores the fact that Colorado primarily conducts its elections by mail, not with in-person voting.
As we said, the state automatically mails ballots to registered voters, who overwhelmingly vote by mail. Voters have the option of dropping off their mail-in ballots at early voting locations, or voting in person if they choose.
Early voting in Colorado began on Oct. 19 last year, which would mean there were 15 days of early voting, held every day before Election Day. The new Georgia voting law establishes 17 days of early voting: Three weeks Monday through Friday, plus two Saturdays. As we’ve explained, county officials are allowed to add up to two additional Sundays but no early voting days beyond that.
So, Georgia voters get two extra days of in-person early voting, but Coloradans get ballots mailed to them with the option to return by mail, or drop off at a drop box or early voting center. Or they can use those 15 early voting days to vote in person.
As for the convenience of using drop boxes to submit those mail-in, or absentee, ballots, Colorado wins.
The state must provide “[a]t least one drop box for every 30,000 registered voters in the county,” according to the National Conference of State Legislature’s August 2020 summary of state drop box policies. Georgia’s new law requires each county to have one drop box, and limits any additional boxes to one per every 100,000 voter.
The Georgia law says: “A board of registrars or absentee ballot clerk may establish additional drop boxes, subject to the limitations of this Code section, but may only establish additional drop boxes totaling the lesser of either one drop box for every 100,000 active registered voters in the county or the number of advance voting locations in the county.”
Georgia’s drop boxes also must be kept inside and only accessible during the hours of early voting, while Colorado’s “[m]ust be adequately lit and monitored by either an election official or video security surveillance system,” NCSL explains.
As Richard L. Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, and author of “The Voting Wars,” told us for a previous story, the change in Georgia could benefit smaller counties that didn’t have drop boxes but “also causes a drastic cutback in the number of boxes allowed in larger counties,” in the last election.
Colorado also makes it easier to vote by allowing residents to register at the polls on Election Day — contrary to Scott’s tweet that Georgia has “more day-of voting rights than CO.”
Colorado enacted same-day voter registration in 2013. As of 2020, it was one of 21 states and the District of Columbia to allow eligible residents to register to vote and cast a ballot all in the same day, according to the NCSL.
Unlike Colorado, Georgia’s deadline for qualified residents to register to vote in various statewide elections is often about a month before the election. In 2021, for example, the deadline to register for the Nov. 2 general election is Oct. 4. In 2022, the deadline to register for the Nov. 8 general election is Oct. 10.
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