Biden urges to pass election reform in wake of Georgia voting restrictions
President Joe Biden slammed Georgia's new voting restrictions, calling them 21st-century “Jim Crow” and urging Congress to pass election reform bills. “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 in a statement Friday afternoon. “This is Jim Crow in the 21st Century. It must end. We have a moral and Constitutional obligation to act.”
In the statement, Biden called on Congress to pass H.R. 1, or the “For the People Act,” which would reform ballot access and campaign finance. It would require states to offer same-day voting registration as well as two weeks of early voting, among other things. The House passed the bill earlier this month but it faces an uphill battle in the Senate amid heavy Republican criticism of the bill.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the bill is about “rigging the system.”
Biden also urged Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would bring back Voting Rights Act protections that the Supreme Court took down.
Later on Friday afternoon, Biden told reporters that the new law is an “atrocity."
"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."
On Thursday, Biden expressed an openness to scrapping the filibuster for “certain things that are just elemental to the functioning of our democracy, like the right to vote.”
Georgia's broad new elections law will add an ID requirement for voters requesting an absentee ballot, cut the length of runoffs, and effectively turn the election board over to the legislature. It also limits drop boxes and prohibits people from giving voters in line food or beverages. Voters in Georgia’s primaries faced several-hour lines at times, particularly near and in Atlanta, a heavily Democratic area in the closely divided state.
The changes passed by Republicans in the state legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp Thursday come after Democrats swept a pivotal Senate runoff election in January, giving Democrats a majority in the chamber.
Republicans in and out of Georgia, especially those backing former President Donald Trump, have pushed new voting restrictions, citing “election integrity” despite no evidence of widespread voter fraud. Democrats and voting rights advocates have called the efforts “voter suppression.”
Biden had slammed efforts to constrain voting access at his first formal news conference Thursday, calling them “sick.”
“What I’m worried about is how un-American this whole initiative is,” Biden said.
Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) also slammed Georgia’s new voting restrictions on Friday.
“What the state Legislature did yesterday is to try to arrest the voices and the votes of the people,” Warnock said.
Repeatedly knocking on the office door of Govenor Brian Kemp got one state lawmaker arrested at the Capitol (Atlanta) on Thursday. Democratic state Rep. Park Cannon, a Black woman, continued knocking on Kemp's office door after Georgia State Patrol troopers instructed her to stop.
She said later she was arrested for "fighting voter suppression." A law signed by Kemp on Thursday includes new limitations on mail-in voting, expands most voters' access to in-person early voting and caps a months-long battle over voting in a battleground state.
It has been heavily criticized as a bill that would end up disenfranchising Black voters. It's also seen as Republicans' rebuke of the November and January elections in which the state's Black voters led the election of two Democrats to the Senate.
Cannon is facing a charge of obstructing law enforcement officers by use of threats or violence and she faces a second charge of disrupting general assembly sessions or other meetings of members.
It's unclear what was said between Cannon and one state trooper guarding Kemp's office door. Georgia State Patrol spokesman Lt. W. Mark Riley told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Cannon "was advised that she was disturbing what was going on inside and if she did not stop, she would be placed under arrest."
Cannon's arrest warrant alleges that she "stomped" on an officer's foot three times as she was being apprehended and escorted out of the property, the AJC reported. Several videos posted online show arresting officers were told repeatedly that Cannon is a state lawmaker.
As she is being pulled away, Cannon identifies herself as a Georgia state lawmaker and demands to know why she is being arrested. She is seen yelling in one video: "There is no reason for me to be arrested. I am a legislator!"
Other officers then arrive to block onlookers from interfering. They eventually bring a shouting Cannon backwards outside and into the back of a Georgia State Capitol patrol car.
Cannon is 5 foot 2, according to her arrest record. Her arrest by several larger, white law enforcement officers and the image of her being brought through the Capitol prompted widespread condemnation on social media overnight. And her arrest prompted comparisons to civil rights and police brutality protests from this summer as well as those of the 1960s.
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