Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst condemned Georgia’s new voting reform law during a March 30 City Council meeting.

“I really believe that this was a mistake,” Ernst said. “I don’t think it’s going to play out politically like they think it will.”

Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst.

Gov. Brian Kemp signed the Election Integrity Act of 2021 on March 25. The law imposes tighter restrictions on voters, including shorter time periods for absentee ballots, stricter ID requirements for voters, limiting the number of ballot drop boxes and moving them inside early voting sites. The bill also gives the State Election Board more power to intervene in county elections if it deems necessary, and prohibits passing out food and water within 150 feet of a polling station. The law also expands early voting by requiring it on two Saturdays rather than one.

Ernst said he thought the new voting restrictions would empower Georgia voters to work harder for the outcomes they want. 

“These rules are not going to change the outcome,” Ernst said. “[They’re] going to embolden people to be stronger, more outspoken, make people vote more, to get people out to vote, to express their will. And in the end, the folks on the other side still won’t believe that it’s a fair election.”

The new legislation will affect elections throughout the state of Georgia. Ernst said he hopes that in the future, Brookhaven puts effort into having more voting locations, voting education and as much time for early voting as possible. 

“When people feel like they’re losing something and change the rules … they end up still losing the game in the end, no matter what they do,” he said. “I think in the end, it’s going to be beyond counterproductive for the folks who are pushing this.”

Gov. Brian Kemp said the law was needed after the presidential election because there “were many alarming issues with how the election was handled, and those problems, understandably, led to a crisis of confidence.”

The legislation drew many protests, and now lawsuits, from advocates who said the changes will make it more difficult to vote, especially for minority voters, and that it followed conspiracy theories about the validity of President Trump’s loss of Georgia’s presidential election.

Sammie Purcell is Associate Editor at Rough Draft Atlanta.