March 28, 2021 5:16:01 pm
Earlier this week, Republicans in Georgia sent shockwaves through the United States when they swiftly passed a new law that would make it significantly more difficult for thousands of Georgians to cast their ballots in the state. US President Joe Biden called the new voting law an “atrocity”, comparing it to the racist policies of the 20th Century US South.
The new law, which was passed by both chambers of the state legislature and signed by Republican Governor Brian Kemp on Thursday, adds restrictions to voting, that some argue will disproportionately impact black Americans.
The legislation was designed to address the controversy that arose during the 2020 US Presidential election, when Biden managed to defeat former President Donald Trump and two Democratic senators were elected from Georgia in a runoff election. Their win was able to tilt the balance of power in the chamber. Biden’s victory was significant as it made him the first Democratic candidate to win in the peach state since Bill Clinton in 1992.
Some key elements of the law, officially known as the Election Integrity Act of 2021, include — a new photo ID requirement for voting absentee by mail, banning the practice of handing out food or water to voters waiting line at polling stations, empowering the state legislature to take on more control if problems are reported in voting operations, and placing limiting on the early-voting period for all runoff elections.
Republicans have argued that the law is essential to restore confidence in Georgia’s electoral process. But Democrats and voting rights activists say that it will dramatically roll back access to the ballot box in the state.
The recent legislation is one amongst a wave of similar Republican Party-backed election bills in states across the country following the 2020 elections, and former President Trump’s unrelenting and unfounded voting fraud claims.
Georgia lawmaker arrested for protesting new voting restrictions
Georgia Representative Park Cannon, a Democrat, was pulled out of the Capitol and arrested by state troopers after she protested against Governor Kemp signing the sweeping voting restrictions into law. She now faces two felony charges.
A video of Cannon knocking on Kemp’s office door, while he held a private livestream as he signed the bill, has since gone viral.
“I am a legislator”: Georgia State Representative Park Cannon identified herself as a lawmaker as she was arrested Thursday night after protesting a voting bill that voting rights groups believe will make it harder for communities of color to cast their ballots. pic.twitter.com/lTVRnGV3vt
— CBS News (@CBSNews) March 26, 2021
Arresting a sitting member of a legislative body, while in session for knocking on the door of the Governor is wild and completely unacceptable.
Are there laws against knocking on the Governor’s door in Georgia, what is she actually being arrested for? https://t.co/zenDM8Plyu
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) March 26, 2021
‘Blatant attack on the constitution,’ says Biden
Weighing in on the Republican Party’s new legislation, President Joe Biden said that the law was a “blatant attack on the Constitution and good conscience.” Comparing the new law to Jim Crow segregation rules in the American South, Biden said, “it must end.”
Referring to the 2020 elections, which President Trump repeatedly claimed were rigged, Biden added, “Recount after recount and court case after court case upheld the integrity and outcome of a clearly free, fair, and secure democratic process.”
At a news conference soon after the law was passed, Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock, who assumed office following the runoff elections earlier this year, called the Republican Party’s move “anti-democratic’ and ‘un-American’.
“It’s urgent. Our democracy is in a 911 emergency,” he said. “They’re trying to make it harder for people to vote.”
‘Voter suppression tactics’
Meanwhile, Georgia’s Democratic state Senate Minority Leader Gloria Butler called the efforts by Republicans “voter suppression tactics”, according to a CBS report. “We are witnessing right now a massive and unabashed assault on voting rights unlike anything we’ve seen since the Jim Crow era,” she said.
Conservative groups and Republican leaders hailed the passage of the legislation.
‘Law will make elections safe, accessible fair,’ says Kemp
Signing the controversial voting bill during a livestream, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp said, “With Senate Bill 202, Georgia will take another step toward ensuring that our elections are secure, accessible, and fair.”
Georgia’s Election Integrity Act that I signed into law expands early voting and secures our vote-by-mail system to protect the integrity of our elections. The Peach State is leading the nation in making it easy to vote and hard to cheat. pic.twitter.com/2MkKcdHq1M
— Brian Kemp (@BrianKempGA) March 27, 2021
‘New law will strengthen election integrity, expand access’
Former Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler (R) said that the new law would “restore confidence by strengthening election integrity and expanding access to voting.”
2020 saw rapid and inconsistent changes to our elections.
Today’s passage of SB202 will restore confidence by strengthening election integrity & expanding access to voting.
Thank you to the Georgia Legislature & Governor for your leadership in this effort.
Full statement ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/9ASeJuGtin
— Kelly Loeffler (@KLoeffler) March 25, 2021