The Georgia legislature passed a sweeping measure on Thursday that will dramatically limit access to voting following continual and unfounded claims of fraud after the state voted Democrat in the 2020 presidential race.
The new measure will impose new identification requirements on those who vote by mail, imperiling the 200,000 voters who don’t have a driver’s license or state ID number. It will also limit the use of drop boxes for absentee ballots, criminalize voting groups from giving those standing in line to vote food and water and shorten the period for runoff races.
In a statement, Rep. Nikema Williams (D), chair of the Georgia Democratic Party, called the measure the “most flagrantly racist, partisan power grab of elections in modern Georgia history.”
“Though it’s unsurprising that Brian Kemp, the architect of voter suppression, is tying his legacy to this racist, anti-democratic bill, it’s no less shameful,” Williams said. “He and his fellow Republicans are insulting the memory of heroes like John Lewis who risked their lives for the right to vote, and disempowering the millions of Georgians who have exercised that sacred right as a result.”
The bill did weaken some controversial provisions in earlier drafts, including a potential ban on Sunday voting, which were largely seen as transparent attempts to rein in “Souls to the Polls” programs, which have traditionally been used by Black communities to get congregations to vote after church. Critics of the bill, however, argue it will still unduly target communities of color that propelled President Joe Biden to the White House and saw the state elect two Democratic senators, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.
The bill passed with votes of 34-20 in the Senate and 100-75 in the House.
“Why do we rally, why do we protest voter suppression?” state Rep. Erica Thomas (D) said on the House floor Thursday, per The New York Times. “It is because our ancestors are looking down right now on this House floor, praying and believing that our fight, and that their fight, was not in vain.”
Black faith leaders also led a protest outside the Georgia State Capitol on Thursday, saying the bill amounted to a new era of voter suppression.
Biden targeted a spate of Republican-led efforts to limit voting rights as “un-American” on Thursday during his first formal news conference as president, calling them “despicable” attacks against democracy. More than a dozen states, including many battleground regions that swung Democrat in 2020, are weighing similar laws.
“What I’m worried about is how un-American this whole initiative is,” the president said. “It’s sick.”
“This makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle,” Biden added.
Republicans have touted the bill as an effort to restore trust in elections following the 2020 race, which former President Donald Trump and his GOP surrogates have claimed was rife with voter fraud. Those allegations are untrue, and even the former president’s own officials said the election was the most secure in history. That didn’t stop Trump from attacking Georgia’s election officials while calling on them to “find” votes for him that would overturn the will of the people.
“Our goal is to ensure that voters in Georgia have confidence in the elections process,” state Sen. Max Burns (R) said Thursday, per The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “This is a solid step in the right direction to provide voter integrity in Georgia.”
In Georgia, hand and machine recounts confirmed that Biden won the state by about 12,000 ballots.
Voting rights groups slammed the new law shortly after it was signed.
″[This bill] is nothing less than an all-out attack on democracy in Georgia and gives Republicans a license to intimidate voters,” Lauren Groh-Wargo, the CEO of Fair Fight Action, said in a statement. “Anyone in Georgia claiming to support access to the ballot must stand up and speak out against this dangerous and fundamentally anti-democratic legislation that is nothing more than a Republican power grab to take control of our elections.”