Biden urges Congress to pass election reform in wake of Georgia voting restrictions
• Mar 30, 2021
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."
Biden also said that both the White House and the Justice Department were looking into potential action related to voting rights in Georgia.
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.
Vice President Kamala Harris echoed Biden's support for Congress to pass election reform, telling reporters Friday that the recent Georgia law was intentionally designed to block "whole populations from voting."
In a statement, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger criticized characterizations of the law as intending to restrict voter access, saying that it instead implements new security measures and expands access.
"The cries of ‘voter suppression’ from those on the left ring as hollow as the continuously debunked claims of ‘mass voter fraud’ in Georgia’s 2020 election. ... Their cataclysmic predictions about the effects of this law are simply baseless. The next election will prove that, but I won’t hold my breath waiting for the left and the media to admit they were wrong," he said.
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.”
On Friday, Trump congratulated the state and its legislature for "changing their voter Rules and Regulations."
"They learned from the travesty of the 2020 Presidential Election, which can never be allowed to happen again," he said in a statement. "Too bad these changes could not have been done sooner!"
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.
The new law in Georgia was one of several bills that Republicans are weighing in GOP-dominated statehouses across the country. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) condemned the Georgia law on Friday night, warning it was "a massive step toward authoritarianism."
"This is people in power, in Georgia and in other states, saying, we cannot keep power in a flourishing vibrant democracy and therefore, we are going to take a large step in American society away from democracy and freedom and toward authoritarianism and repression," Booker said on MSNBC. "So the Senate needs to have a conversation and decide on which side of history do we stand."
You can read the full article by Ben Leonard here.