Biden assaults Georgia’s new voting limits as ‘an atrocity,’ civil rights teams sue state

(Reuters) – Georgia’s sweeping new election restrictions were attacked on Friday. Civil rights groups challenged them in court, and President Joe Biden said the US Department of Justice was looking into what he called an “atrocity” of a law.

Among other things, the Republican-backed law passed Thursday introduces stricter identification requirements, limits dropboxing, gives lawmakers the power to run local elections, and shortens the early term for all runoff elections. It also makes it an offense for the people to offer food and water to voters in line here, in a state where people sometimes wait in the heat for hours to vote.

The legislature has alarmed the Democrats, who a few months ago celebrated historic victories in the presidential election and two Senate campaigns in Georgia that helped transfer control of the White House and the US Senate to their party in Washington.

Biden, the first Democratic presidential candidate in three decades to win Georgia, on Friday accused Republicans there and in other states of wreaking havoc on voting rights.

“It’s an atrocity,” Biden told reporters shortly after comparing the restrictions for a second straight day to the racist “Jim Crow” laws in the southern states in the decades following the US Civil War of 1861 Introduced by 1865 to legalize racial segregation and disenfranchisement of black citizens.

Biden said it was unclear what the White House could do to address the law, but added that the Justice Department would “take a look”. He again called on Congress to pass democratically-backed laws that would require automatic registration, extend out-of-office voting, and soften voter identification laws.

So far, the Republican opposition in the US Senate has obstructed these efforts.

A coalition of civil rights groups sued the state in federal court in Atlanta just hours after Republican Governor Brian Kemp signed the law Thursday on the grounds that the measures were designed to make it difficult for people – especially black voters – to cast ballots .

Marc Elias, a Democratic attorney who led the party’s electoral efforts last year, represents groups that include the New Georgia Project, the Black Voters Matter Fund, and Rise, Inc.

“These provisions have no justification for their onerous and discriminatory effects on voting,” the lawsuit said.

Kemp issued a statement Friday in response to Biden’s comments saying the law “ensures electoral integrity”.

“It is not ‘Jim Crow’ to ask for a photo or state-issued ID to vote by postal vote – every Georgian voter must do so when they vote in person,” he said. “President Biden, the left and the national media are determined to destroy the sanctity and security of the ballot box.”

Other Republican-controlled lawmakers are pursuing election restrictions in electoral states, including Florida and Arizona, after former President Donald Trump repeatedly attributed his loss to Biden to massive electoral fraud with no evidence.

FILE PHOTO: Protesters gather outside the Georgia State Capitol to protest HB 531, which would tighten election restrictions in Georgia, Atlanta, Georgia, United States, March 4, 2021. REUTERS / Dustin Chambers /

Democrats and supporters of voting rights have said the restrictions passed by Georgian lawmakers solely with Republican support will continue to harm voters in minority communities, already plagued by long lines and inadequate electoral infrastructure.

When he denied his national loss to Biden, Trump focused much of his energy on Georgia. At one point, he personally called the state’s Republican Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, and asked him to find voices that Trump said had disappeared.

This call is part of a prosecutor’s criminal investigation into whether Trump broke electoral law by pressuring officials to change the results.

In a statement on Friday, Trump applauded Republicans in Georgia for their action.

“You have learned from the travesty of the 2020 presidential election, which must never take place again,” he said.

Trump’s false claims about electoral fraud have compounded longstanding Republican warnings that stricter laws are needed, although research shows such cases are vanishingly rare.

In a February Reuters / Ipsos poll, 62% of Republicans said they were “very concerned” that the election was being compromised by ineligible people casting votes. Weeks leading up to the October election, 47% of Republicans expressed the same concern.

Reporting by Joseph Ax; Additional coverage by Trevor Hunnicutt and Chris Kahn Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Alistair Bell and Grant McCool

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