Administration

Biden: Georgia law is ‘Jim Crow in the 21st century’

President Biden on Friday sharply criticized a new restrictive voting law passed in Georgia, accusing the state’s Republicans of rushing to enact an “un-American law to deny people the right to vote.”

“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 issued by the White House Friday afternoon.

“This is Jim Crow in the 21st century. It must end. We have a moral and constitutional obligation to act,” he continued.

The president urged Congress to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which he said would make it easier for Americans to vote and protect voting rights.

Biden further commented on the law in a brief exchange with reporters Friday afternoon before departing the White House for his home in Wilmington, Del. He called the law an “atrocity” and particularly criticized a provision barring volunteers from giving food and water to voters.

“If you want any indication that it has nothing to do with fairness, nothing to do with decency, they passed a law saying you can’t provide water to people standing in line while they’re waiting to vote?” Biden said. “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.”

The law enacted by Georgia on Thursday evening imposes a raft of new voting restrictions, including limits on the use of ballot drop boxes, photo identification requirements for absentee voting and a shortened time frame for runoff elections. It also gives state lawmakers more control over elections.

Voting rights groups quickly challenged it in court hours after it was signed into law by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.

The Republican-led law follows negative results for the GOP in the November general election and two January Senate runoffs in the Peach State. Georgia is the first battleground state to overhaul its voting laws in the wake of the 2020 election.   

Just last week, Biden visited Atlanta and met with Georgia officials including Stacey Abrams, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and newly-elected Democratic Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. The group discussed voting rights and barriers to the ballot box, including restrictive voting legislation being enacted by state officials across the country.

House Democrats earlier this month passed the For the People Act, a sweeping voting rights and election reform bill that would make it easier to vote by requiring states to offer mail-in ballots, enact same-day voter registration and expand early voting. Republicans have denounced the legislation as an overreach of states’ rights.

The law faces an uphill battle in the 50-50 Senate, where Democrats need at least 10 Republicans to join with them in ending debate on the legislation.

—Updated at 3:33 p.m.

Tags Brian Kemp Georgia Joe Biden John Lewis Jon Ossoff Keisha Lance Bottoms Raphael Warnock voting rights

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