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Previous story Georgia Republicans make unexpected push on another bill to restrict voting Next story

STORY BY BY FREDREKA SCHOUTEN AND KELLY MENA, CNN

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Published on March 18, 2021 11:15 PM

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Demonstrators stand outside of the Georgia Capitol building, to oppose the HB 531 bill on March 3, 2021, in Atlanta.
(CNN)A key committee in the Republican-controlled Georgia legislature on Wednesday made a surprise move and began work on a massive new voting bill that would give the state broad powers over local election officials, set limits on weekend early voting and add voter ID requirements for absentee ballots.

Word of a new 93-page bill came about an hour before a scheduled hearing of a special election integrity committee in the Georgia House, and it set off outrage from voting rights activists who called it a "disgraceful" bait-and-switch tactic.

"They are attacking voting rights from every single angle," Hillary Holley of Fair Fight Action, a voting rights group, said in a hastily arranged news conference.

Earlier in the day, the committee's public agenda had described the hearing as centered on a two-page bill, dealing narrowly with absentee voting provisions -- only to substitute it with the sweeping bill. The unexpected move comes as the Georgia legislature hurtles toward the scheduled March 31 conclusion of its legislative session. The new package incorporates elements of other controversial voting bills that have already passed the state House and Senate -- along with several new measures.

Some voting-rights activists singled out for criticism a provision that would give any Georgian the right to challenge the eligibility of an unlimited number of voters. In the run-up to the January 5 Senate runoff elections, groups, such as the conservative organization True the Vote, sought to cast doubts of the eligibility of hundreds of thousands of Georgia voters.