Warnock on Georgia GOP voting overhaul: ‘Democracy is in a 911 emergency’

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Georgia Democratic candidate Rev. Raphael Warnock speaks at his Labor Canvass Launch at IBEW Local 613 on January 05, 2021 in Marietta, Georgia. Multiple outlets declared victory for Warnock. 

Georgia Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock on Friday blasted a sweeping bill to tighten voting rules in the state, a day after it was signed by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R).

Warnock, speaking to reporters in Georgia, called the GOP bill an attempt to “arrest the voices and the votes of the people. It will not stand.” 

“So what’s the purpose behind all of this? So you’re literally going to make public policy based on a lie? Based on the feeling that some people have that things didn’t turn out the way they should have turned out? Is that how we make public policy?” Warnock said.

The bill requires voters to provide a driver’s license or state-issued ID card number to request and submit absentee ballots, and it would curtail the use of ballot drop boxes, limiting their placement to early-voting locations and making them accessible only while the precinct is open. 

It sets the deadline for voters to request absentee ballots at 11 days before an election and calls for prohibiting people from giving food or drinks to voters waiting in line to cast their ballots.

The legislation also gives the Georgia State Elections Board the ability to effectively take over county elections boards in areas that it determines are in need of oversight. The secretary of state would also be removed as chair of the State Elections Board, a proposal that critics say would strip the state’s top elections official of a key power.

Republicans have defended the bill as a step toward increasing confidence in the elections process after former President Trump spent months seeking to discredit the system. But Trump’s legal team lost dozens of cases in court, and election experts have dismissed claims of widespread fraud.

Warnock said Republicans were trying to “cherry-pick their voters,” adding that “our democracy is in a 911 emergency.”

“I think they don’t like the outcome and rather than change their message they’re trying to change the rules,” Warnock said.

Warnock’s remarks come a day after state Rep. Park Cannon (D) was arrested by state troopers and charged with with obstruction of law enforcement, as well as “Preventing or disrupting General Assembly sessions or other meetings of members,” after she knocked on Kemp’s door multiple times as he signed the voting bill into law.

“All of us owe her a debt of gratitude in a real sense for standing up,” Warnock said on Friday.

The clash in Georgia over voting rights comes as Senate Democrats are touting a sweeping election reform bill and a separate bill to strengthen the Voting Rights Act. Democrats are under fierce pressure to nix the 60-vote legislative filibuster to pass the bills if they can’t get the support of 10 GOP senators.

Warnock argued that debate should be not about the filibuster but about if Republicans are going to “stand up for voting rights.”

“I’m not about to be stopped or stymied by debates about Senate rules. I respect rules … but no Senate rule should overrule the integrity of our democracy. And I was on the phone with my colleagues even last night,” he said.

The Senate held a hearing this week on the For the People Act, a broad bill that would make changes to elections. Republicans staunchly oppose the bill, arguing that it would shift control of elections to the federal government.

Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), pointing to the uptick in turnout in 2020, added that “states are not engaging in trying to suppress voters, whatsoever.”

Tags absentee Brian Kemp Donald Trump Georgia Mitch McConnell Raphael Warnock voting restrictions voting rules

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