President Joe Biden has intervened days after Georgia’s sweeping new voting restrictions were enacted and has said the Justice Department is looking into the new law.
‘We don’t know quite exactly what we can do at this point. The Justice Department’s taking a look as well,’ Biden confirmed as he spoke to reporters outside the White House.
The new laws have come under attack and civil rights groups are challenging them in court. But the strongest words have been reserved for the president who called them an ‘atrocity’ of a law and said the U.S. Justice Department was ‘taking a look’.
Among other limits, the Republican-backed law imposes stricter identification requirements, limits drop boxes and gives lawmakers the power to take over local elections and shortens the early voting period for all runoff elections.
President Joe Biden says Georgia’s new law on voting limits are ‘an atrocity’
It also makes it a misdemeanor for people to offer food and water to voters in line, in a state where people sometimes wait for hours in the heat to vote.
The legislation has alarmed Democrats, who just months ago celebrated historic wins in the presidential election and two Senate campaigns in Georgia that helped deliver the White House and U.S. Senate control to their party in Washington.
‘It has nothing to do with fairness, nothing to do with decency. They passed the law saying you can’t provide water for people standing in line while they’re waiting to vote? You don’t need anything else to know that this is nothing but punitive, designed to keep people from voting. You can’t provide water for people about to vote? Give me a break,’ he said.
Biden, narrowly won the state of Georgia in the 2020 election becoming the first Democratic presidential candidate in three decades to win.
Protesters gathered on a busy street corner to voice their opposition and share details to area residents about a far-reaching overhaul of Georgia’s state’s election laws.
On Friday, he accused Republicans there and in other states of mounting a broad assault on voting rights.
‘It’s an atrocity,’ Biden told reporters, comparing the restrictions to racist ‘Jim Crow’ laws, which were put in place in Southern states in the decades after the 1861-65 U.S. Civil War to legalize racial segregation and disenfranchise black citizens.
The president has urged Congress to pass voting rights legislation that would counter the Georgia law and other bills that have been proposed by Republican state legislatures across the country that would appear to make voting more difficult.
‘This law, like so many others being pursued by Republicans in statehouses across the country is a blatant attack on the Constitution and good conscience,’ Biden said.
A group of demonstrators held a rally outside of Atlanta City Hall on Saturday in protest of a new sweeping voting rights bill that was signed into law
‘This is Jim Crow in the 21st Century. It must end. We have a moral and constitutional obligation to act. I once again urge Congress to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to make it easier for all eligible Americans access the ballot box and prevent attacks on the sacred right to vote,’ Biden added.
Biden noted how long lines at polls disproportionately affect black voters in metropolitan areas, as Republican officials have reduced the number of polling sites in their neighborhoods.
Recently, the House passed the For the People Act, a bill that addresses elections and campaign finance reform.
It is unlikely to pass in the senate where Republicans are opposed to its contents.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, pictured, says there’s ‘nothing Jim Crow’ about Georgia’s new voting law and blasts Biden ‘and his handlers’ for not having read it
Democrats have a 50-seat majority in the Senate but most legislation requires 60 votes to pass.
A coalition of civil rights groups sued the state in Atlanta federal court just hours after Governor Kemp signed the legislation into law on Thursday, arguing that the measures are intended to make it harder for people – particularly black voters – to cast ballots.
Republicans have argued there is no such voter suppression in the Georgia bill.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said ‘cries of voter suppression from those on the left ring hollow.’ Republican Georgia Governor Brian Kemp said that it made elections safer.
Democrats say the new voting bill will limit voter access and disenfranchise black voters. Pictured, voters waiting in line to vote early in the Georgia senate special election
In a statement in response to Biden’s comments, Kemp said the law ‘ensures election integrity.’
‘There is nothing ‘Jim Crow’ about requiring a photo or state-issued ID to vote by absentee ballot – every Georgia voter must already do so when voting in-person,’ he said. ‘President Biden, the left, and the national media are determined to destroy the sanctity and security of the ballot box.’
Other Republican-controlled state legislatures are pursuing voting restrictions in election battleground states, including Florida and Arizona, after former President Donald Trump repeatedly blamed his loss to Biden on massive voter fraud without evidence.
Democrats and voting rights advocates have said the restrictions, which passed the Georgia legislature solely with Republican support, will further harm voters in minority communities that are already plagued by long lines and inadequate election infrastructure.
As he contested his national loss to Biden, Trump focused much of his energy in Georgia. At one point, he personally called the state’s Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, and urged him to ‘find’ votes Trump claimed had gone missing.
That phone call is part of a criminal investigation by state prosecutors into whether Trump broke election laws by pressuring officials to alter the results.
In a statement on Friday, Trump applauded Georgia Republicans for their action.
‘They learned from the travesty of the 2020 Presidential Election, which can never be allowed to happen again,’ he said.
Trump’s false assertions about voter fraud have reinforced long-standing Republican warnings that stricter laws are needed, despite research showing that such cases are vanishingly rare.