President Biden on Friday called a new Georgia election law “Jim Crow in the 21st century,” likening its provisions to racially discriminatory laws cast aside in the 1960s.
The reforms passed by Republicans and signed Thursday by GOP Gov. Brian Kemp impose new rules on absentee voting — including requiring a photo ID and shortening the absentee voting window — in addition to other changes that conservatives say will improve election integrity.
Democrats allege that the bill will constrict voting, particularly among poorer and African American voters, who helped Biden carry the state in November by fewer than 12,000 votes. Democrats also narrowly won a pair of Senate runoff races in January, giving the party effective control of the upper chamber of Congress.
“More Americans voted in the 2020 elections than any election in our nation’s history. In Georgia we saw this most historic demonstration of the power of the vote twice — in November and then again in the runoff election for the U.S. Senate seats in January. Recount after recount and court case after court case upheld the integrity and outcome of a clearly free, fair, and secure democratic process,” Biden said in a statement.
“Yet instead of celebrating the rights of all Georgians to vote or winning campaigns on the merits of their ideas, Republicans in the state instead rushed through an un-American law to deny people the right to vote.”
Biden continued: “Among the outrageous parts of this new state law, it ends voting hours early so working people can’t cast their vote after their shift is over. It adds rigid restrictions on casting absentee ballots that will effectively deny the right to vote to countless voters. And it makes it a crime to provide water to voters while they wait in line — lines Republican officials themselves have created by reducing the number of polling sites across the state, disproportionately in Black neighborhoods.”
“This is Jim Crow in the 21st Century. It must end,” he said.
He also called on Congress to pass federal voting rights legislations that would turn back some of these state measures. The Georgia law does not contain notable provisions that characterized segregation-era racist laws to restrict black voting, such as literacy tests and poll taxes, though a requirement to own a photo ID has been interpreted by some courts as a poll tax.
The new law’s provisions include allowing state officials to take over local elections work in response to alleged mismanagement.
Republicans approved the reform law following allegations from former President Donald Trump that fraud tipped Georgia to Biden, which GOP state officials including Kemp denied.
The next major federal race in Georgia will be a Senate contest likely featuring incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, who is black and the former pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, the former headquarters of Martin Luther King Jr.
Trump is urging Herschel Walker, a black Republican and former pro football player, to challenge Warnock.