Texas Democrats reportedly weigh leaving state to block Republican-led voting bill

Texas Democrats
Texas state Rep. Ron Reynolds (D-Missouri City) speaks alongside members of the Texas House Democratic Caucus and voting-rights advocates during a rally outside of the Texas State Capitol on July 8, 2021 in Austin, Texas.

  • Texas Democratic lawmakers have weighed leaving the state over the GOP election bill, per the NYT.
  • In May, Democrats were able to temporarily halt passage of the bill by denying Republicans a quorum.
  • Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has made the election overhaul a top priority this year.
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Texas Democratic lawmakers are reportedly weighing a decision to leave the state to block a Republican-backed election overhaul from passing, according to The New York Times.

Individuals with knowledge of the situation told The Times that there have been talks surrounding how Democrats could leave the state to protest the new voting restrictions, but it would only be a temporary maneuver.

The lawmakers who support leaving the state have argued that the action “would bring a renewed spotlight to voting rights in Texas” and put pressure on Democrats in the US Senate to enact federal voting reforms, according to several Democratic lawmakers who spoke with The Times.

However, a contingent of Democrats oppose leaving the state, calling on members to remain at the state Capitol in Austin and battle with Republicans over the bill.

Texas House Democrats on Friday tussled with several options – leaving Texas for a month, which would prevent Republicans from having a quorum; staying in the Lone Star State and seeking amendments to weaken the bill; or allowing a vote and making a decision on how to proceed while the bill is being hashed out by the state House and Senate.

Read more: 20 sought-after female political strategists to watch as more women in the US enter politics

Texas Democratic senators on Friday filed the Barbara Jordan Fair Elections Act, named after the revered Black congresswoman who served in the US House from 1973 to 1979, which would expand access to voting, allowing for online and same-day voter registration and automatic voter registration, among other measures, according to The Dallas Morning News.

The actions come as Texas legislators enter a special session to pass the election overhaul that failed in May after House Democrats denied Republicans a quorum and temporarily halted passage of the bill.

In response to the move, GOP Gov. Greg Abbott effectively defunded the Texas legislature.

However, Texas legislators have moved to restore the funding, according to The Texas Tribune.

The Republican election overhaul modifies early voting hours, curbs the 24-7 voting centers that were popular with shift workers in last year’s presidential election, and scraps straight-ticket voting, among other rules.

The legislation could be passed as soon as Tuesday, according to The Times.

After former President Donald Trump’s loss to now-President Joe Biden, Republican legislators across the country sought to enact a wide range of voting restrictions, under pressure from the former president and conservative activists to prioritize election integrity, despite there being no verifiable evidence of mass fraud in the 2020 election.

Arizona, Florida, and Georgia, Sun Belt states that are competitive on the presidential level, have all passed controversial voting bills this year.

Last month, the Department of Justice announced that it was suing the state of Georgia over its new voting law, SB 202, citing “racially discriminatory provisions.”

“The right to vote is one of the most central rights in our democracy and protecting the right to vote for all Americans is at the core of the Civil Rights Division’s mission,” said Kristen Clarke, the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Department of Justice will use all the tools it has available to ensure that each eligible citizen can register, cast a ballot, and have that ballot counted free from racial discrimination. Laws adopted with a racially motivated purpose, like Georgia Senate Bill 202, simply have no place in democracy today.”

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GOP Rep. Burgess Owens says it’s ‘an insult’ to compare the new Georgia voting law to Jim Crow

Burgess Owens
Rep. Burgess Owens (R-Utah) speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on voting rights on Capitol Hill on April 20, 2021.

  • GOP Rep. Burgess Owens has criticized comparisons of the Georgia voting law to Jim Crow.
  • “This is the type of fear-mongering I expected in the 1960s, not today,” he said.
  • Democrats contend that the law was devised to target voter turnout among Black voters.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

GOP Rep. Burgess Owens of Utah on Tuesday blasted Democratic-led criticism of the new Georgia voting law, rejecting comparisons of the legislation to the Jim Crow South as “absolutely outrageous.”

Owens, a conservative Black freshman congressman who grew up in segregation-era Florida, testified during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing called “Jim Crow 2021: The Latest Assault on the Right to Vote.” He zeroed in on the Georgia law’s bolstered photo identification requirements for absentee balloting.

The congressman called out “the left” for their opposition to the measure and rejected the law being linked to racially-driven restrictions from the past.

“To call this Jim Crow 2021 is an insult,” he said. “What I find extremely offensive is the narrative from the left that Black people are not smart enough, not educated enough, not desirous enough of education to do what every other culture and race does in this country: get an ID.”

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the chairman of the committee, stressed that although 1960s-era civil rights legislation legally barred racist practices such as literacy tests, the GOP-driven push to enact restrictive voting measures has spread throughout the country this year.

“These new pieces of legislation may not involve literacy tests, counting the number of jelly beans in a jar like the original Jim Crow, but make no mistake, they are a deliberate effort to suppress voters of color,” he said.

“The voters who did vote in the last election were not their voters,” Durbin said of the GOP-led voting restrictions in typically red states. “That is fundamentally un-American.”

Read more: Prosecuting Trump does not look like a DOJ priority under Biden’s attorney general. But watch Georgia and New York.

After years of Republican ascendancy in Georgia, President Joe Biden won the state’s 16 electoral votes last year, defeating former President Donald Trump.

In January 2021, Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff were both elected to the Senate, defeating GOP Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, respectively.

The losses stunned Republicans, with Trump leading a monthslong pressure campaign to overturn the statewide results. The former president repeatedly alleged voter fraud and chided GOP Gov. Brian Kemp and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger for not aiding his cause to win the state.

Biden has derided the Georgia law as “Jim Crow in the 21st century” and a “blatant attack on the Constitution and good conscience.”

The law, also known as the Election Integrity Act of 2021 or SB 202, tightens election rules in the state by limiting drop boxes, shortening the time for runoff elections from nine weeks to four weeks, and banning water and food from being distributed by volunteers to voters waiting in line, among other measures.

Owens stressed that it was “disgusting and offensive” to compare segregation-era violence to states asking voters to produce valid photo identification.

“This is the type of fear-mongering I expected in the 1960s, not today,” he said.

The congressman also chided Biden for connecting the Georgia law to Jim Crow.

“With all due respect, Mr. President, you know better,” he said. “For someone who has actually experienced Jim Crow laws, I’d like to set the record straight on the myth of the recently passed Georgia state law and why any comparison between this law and Jim Crow is absolutely outrageous.”

In detailing the conditions of the Jim Crow South, Owens recounted how he demonstrated outside of a segregated theater as a preteen and recalled receiving used textbooks from all-white schools.

“Jim Crow that I grew up in in the South was initiated by the Democratic Party,” he said. “The soft bigotry of low expectations now projected on Black Americans … is being done by the Democratic Party.”

Sen. Warnock, who is up for reelection for a full term next year, had a different perspective, telling the committee that the GOP pushed back against the robust voter turnout in Georgia “not in celebration but with retaliation.”

“This is a full-fledged assault on voting rights unlike anything we have seen since the era of Jim Crow,” he said.

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New Jersey tried luring Netflix, Disney, and other Hollywood studios after Georgia passed its controversial voting law

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy

  • New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy sent a letter to Hollywood studios like Netflix and Disney on Thursday.
  • Murphy wanted to lure studios to the state after backlash to Georgia’s new voting law.
  • Some media companies like ViacomCBS and AT&T have issued statements opposing the controversial bill.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

New Jersey wants to be in business with Hollywood.

The state’s governor, Phil Murphy, sent a letter to major Hollywood studios like Disney, Warner Bros., and Netflix on Thursday in an attempt to lure business away from Georgia after it passed a controversial voting law, according to several outlets that obtained the letter, including The Wall Street Journal and The Hollywood Reporter.

Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, signed the sweeping elections bill into law on March 25, which has been met with backlash from Democrats and civil-rights groups who say it targets Black communities. Among the most controversial aspects of the bill are changes to absentee voting and banning volunteers from delivering food, water, and other items to people waiting in long voting lines.

Murphy wrote that “restricting the right to vote is more than just wrong, it’s un-American” and that the “vast majority” see the law as “an attack on people of color by a Governor and Legislature willing to do anything to stay in power.”

Georgia offers attractive tax incentives that have made it a major Hollywood production hub. Murphy emphasized New Jersey’s 30% tax credit on film projects and a 40% subsidy for any brick-and-mortar studio development, according to THR.

“Our new $14.5 billion economic incentive package makes the Garden State just as competitive as Georgia to attract film and television production businesses,” Murphy wrote. “One thing is clear: when it comes to social policies, corporate responsibility, and – not to be overlooked – economic opportunity, New Jersey is now a top contender for your business.”

Some media companies have issued statements condemning the Georgia law, but have not called for a boycott of the state.

ViacomCBS, the parent company of Paramount Pictures, was the first major media company to speak out: “We unequivocally believe in the importance of all Americans having an equal right to vote and oppose the recent Georgia voting rights law or any effort that impedes the ability to exercise this vital constitutional right.”

Comcast, NBCUniversal’s corporate parent, and AT&T, which owns WarnerMedia, Warner Bros., and Atlanta-based CNN, followed with their own statements.

Comcast said: “Voting is fundamental to our democracy. We believe that all Americans should enjoy equitable access to secure elections and we have long supported and promoted voter education, registration and participation campaigns across the country to achieve that goal. Efforts to limit or impede access to this vital constitutional right for any citizen are not consistent with our values.”

AT&T’s CEO John Stankey said in part: “We believe the right to vote is sacred and we support voting laws that make it easier for more Americans to vote in free, fair and secure elections. We understand that election laws are complicated, not our company’s expertise and ultimately the responsibility of elected officials. But, as a company, we have a responsibility to engage.”

Disney and Netflix have not released statements regarding the Georgia voting law.

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Mike Huckabee says he’s going to identify as ‘Chinese’ in a tweet as anti-Asian hate crimes rise

Mike Huckabee
FOX News Contributor Gov. Mike Huckabee visits “The Story with Martha MacCallum” in the Fox News Channel Studios on September 17, 2019 in New York City.

  • Mike Huckabee said he would start identifying as “Chinese” in a tweet on Saturday.
  • The message appears to be a pushback against companies who criticized a new Georgia voting bill.
  • Civil rights groups have denounced the law and said it suppresses Black voters.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Fox News contributor and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said he would start identifying as “Chinese” in a tweet against pushback to Georgia’s new voting bill.

“I’ve decided to “identify” as Chinese. Coke will like me, Delta will agree with my “values” and I’ll probably get shoes from Nike & tickets to @MLB games. Ain’t America great?” Huckabee said.

Huckabee appears to be criticizing companies that have come out against the bill known as SB 202, or the Election Integrity Act of 2021, which makes sweeping changes to almost every part of the state’s voting and election system.

Civil rights groups have denounced the law and said it suppress Black voters.

Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian criticized the new voting law. The airline is based in Atlanta.

“I need to make it crystal clear that the final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values,” Bastian wrote in a memo.

Major League Baseball’s moved the All-Star Game out of Georgia over the new law and Coca-Cola also gave a statement in support of voting rights after activists staged a sit-in in front of their headquarters.

Huckabee’s remark comes amidst dramatically increasing anti-Asian hate crimes across the country.

A man used a metal post to trash an Asian American-owned convenience store while yelling racial slurs in Charlotte North Carolina, earlier this week.

Last week, a 65-year-old Asian woman was yelled at and assaulted while on her way to church Monday morning in New York City.

Huckabee is also a Baptist Minister and his tweet comes a day before Easter, one of the highest Christian holy days. In a response to Huckabee, Evangelist Beth Moore called the remark “entirely antithetical to the gospel.”

Huckabee said while he didn’t take himself or Twitter seriously, he took the Gospel seriously, but stopped short of an apology on the statement.

Insider was unable to reach Huckabee for comment.

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Amazon says it supports expanding voting rights but it gave $500,000 to lawmakers who oppose those efforts

amazon jeff bezos white house
Amazon funds candidates who support policies that have made it harder for Americans – particularly African Americans – to vote.

  • Amazon said in a statement Tuesday that it supports efforts to “protect and expand” voting rights.
  • But the company spent more than $500,000 last election cycle funding politicians who oppose those efforts.
  • It also gave money to the Texas GOP, which has been passing restrictive voting laws for years.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Earlier this week, voting rights activists called for boycotts of Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, and Home Depot, blasting the Georgia-based companies for not doing enough to oppose a controversial new state law that they condemned as voter suppression.

While all three issued generic statements in support of voting rights, critics accused the multibillion-dollar corporations, which have massive influence in national- and state-level politics, of failing to back up those words with actions – or their pocketbooks.

As Republican-led legislatures advance similar bills in Texas and other states, some companies have tried to get ahead of the backlash by issuing statements condemning efforts to restrict voting rights.

But many have a poor track record when it comes to supporting the lawmakers behind those efforts.

Read more: How Black Americans still face disproportionate barriers to the ballot box in 2020

More than 70 Black business leaders, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Microsoft, Apple CEO Tim Cook, and JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon all came out with statements opposing bills like the one Georgia passed, as did Amazon.

“It has been fifty-six years since the Voting Rights Act became law, yet efforts to disenfranchise Black people and other minorities continue to this day. The ability to vote is one of the most prized fundamental rights in our American democracy, and Amazon supports policies that protect and expand those rights,” Amazon PR and public policy chief Jay Carney said in a statement on Twitter.

Carney, who previously worked as President Barack Obama’s press secretary, praised efforts to expand voting rights in Virginia, where Amazon has a major presence and therefore plenty of reasons to stay in the good graces of its Democratic governor and state legislature.

“We oppose efforts in other states aimed at restricting the ability of Americans to vote,” Carney added.

But that’s not quite accurate, at least in terms of which politicians Amazon has supported. (Amazon did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story).

Amazon spent $18.7 million on lobbying last year, an increase of 30% since 2018, making it the biggest spender in the US other than Facebook. Those expenditures help Amazon convince current members of Congress to pass laws that will benefit its business, like tax cuts and subsidies or bigger budgets for the government agencies it contracts with.

The company also gives money to congressional members and candidates to try to keep friendlier lawmakers in power or force unfriendly ones out. Amazon does that through its corporate Political Action Committee, which spent $1.9 million during the 2019-2020 election cycle alone, according to Insider’s analysis of Federal Election Commission data via Open Secrets.

Of the $1.3 million that Amazon’s PAC gave to individuals, $471,000 went to lawmakers who voted against the For the People Act, which would expand access to the ballot box, voter registration opportunities, and mail-in and early voting, as well as creating increased transparency in the US’ campaign finance system.

And many of those lawmakers have a long history of opposing efforts to expand voting rights, both at the federal and state level.

Of the 186 Republican House members who voted in 2019 against restoring key parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which would have made it harder for states like Georgia to pass voter suppression laws, Amazon supported 143 members, giving them a total of $510,000.

Just last May, California Rep. Darrell Issa sued the state for sending mail-in ballots to residents so they could vote safely during the pandemic. Amazon gave Issa $5,000 last election cycle.

According to data from the Texas Ethics Commission, Amazon also gave $15,000 last year to Republican lawmakers in the state, despite years of the party passing notoriously restrictive and discriminatory voter ID laws.

Voting rights have been a hyperpartisan issue for years, with Republicans arguing that restrictive voting rules are needed to prevent widespread fraud. But independent experts within and outside of the US have proved dozens of times that fraud is extremely rare and has never affected the outcome of an election and that bills restricting voting rights disproportionately impact people of color.

Yet Amazon has continued to support GOP lawmakers who even opposed Congress’ last successful bipartisan voting rights law in 2002, the Help America Vote Act. Amazon gave a combined $53,500 to 12 of the members who fought that effort and are still in Congress over the past two years.

Following the attempted insurrection on January 6, civil rights activists and consumers pressured companies to stop financially supporting the 147 GOP lawmakers who voted against certifying states’ Electoral College results.

Dozens did, including Amazon, which had given $253,500 to 76 of those members, though it only promised to “suspend” those contributions, leaving the door open for the company to potentially resume its support closer to the 2022 congressional races.

Whether Amazon stands by its promise to oppose efforts “aimed at restricting the ability of Americans to vote” remains to be seen. But its spending record so far shows that it has often supported the lawmakers behind those exact efforts.

Read more: AT&T and Cigna are funding Republican groups led by election objectors they had promised to stop supporting

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Atlanta Mayor says the MLB moving All-Star Game from Georgia ‘is likely the first of many dominoes to fall’ in pushback against new voting law

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

  • Mayor Bottoms said that the MLB’s decision to pull the All-Star Game from Atlanta would hit the area hard.
  • “Just as elections have consequences, so do the actions of those who are elected,” she wrote.
  • GOP Gov. Brian Kemp has lashed out at critics of the controversial new voting bill.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms on Friday said that Major League Baseball’s decision to move the All-Star Game out of Georgia over its controversial new voting law is “likely” the start of more actions taken against the state.

While speaking out against the law on Twitter, Bottoms emphasized the economic harm that such a backlash will cause throughout Georgia.

“Just as elections have consequences, so do the actions of those who are elected,” she wrote. “Unfortunately, the removal of the MLB All Star game from GA is likely the 1st of many dominoes to fall, until the unnecessary barriers put in place to restrict access to the ballot box are removed.”

She added: “Boycotts in GA will hit the metro Atlanta hardest and have a ripple effect across the state. Small businesses, corporations that support our communities, and everyday working people will suffer. It is not too late to right this sinking ship.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed on Friday that the decision to move the All-Star Game and MLB Draft was “the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport.”

“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box,” he said in a statement. “Fair access to voting continues to have our game’s unwavering support.”

Since the law’s passage on March 25, major corporations, including Delta Airlines and Coca-Cola under pressure from politicians and activists, have more forcefully come out against its restrictive measures.

The conservative-backed law tightens election rules in the state by limiting drop boxes, strengthening voter identification requirements, blocking the usage of mobile voting vans, and even banning water and food from being distributed to voters waiting in line, among other measures.

GOP Gov. Brian Kemp, who signed the bill into law, flatly rejects claims that it reinforces voter suppression and said that the law makes it “easy to vote and hard to cheat.”

Read more: Here are 9 hurdles Biden’s infrastructure plan would have to overcome in Congress before it can become law

On Friday, the governor lashed out at MLB’s decision on Fox News, accusing the organization of adhering to “cancel culture.”

Kemp continued to express his displeasure with the situation on Twitter, lashing out at prominent Democrats.

“This attack on our state is the direct result of repeated lies from [President] Joe Biden and [former Georgia state House Minority Leader] Stacey Abrams about a bill that expands access to the ballot box and ensures the integrity of our elections,” he wrote. “I will not back down. Georgians will not be bullied. We will continue to stand up for secure, accessible, fair elections.”

Abrams, who was narrowly defeated by Kemp in the state’s 2018 gubernatorial race and could potentially run against the incumbent governor in 2022, said on Friday that she was “disappointed” by the move but was “proud” of the MLB’s support of voting rights.

“Like many Georgians, I am disappointed that the MLB is relocating the All-Star game; however, I commend the players, owners and League commissioner for speaking out,” she said in a statement. “As I have stated, I respect boycotts, although I don’t want to see Georgia families hurt by lost events and jobs. Georgians targeted by voter suppression will be hurt as opportunities go to other states. We should not abandon the victims of GOP malice and lies – we must stand together.”

Former President Barack Obama on Saturday praised the decision, making a nod to the late baseball icon Hank Aaron, who faced racial threats throughout his professional baseball career.

“Congratulations to MLB for taking a stand on behalf of voting rights for all citizens,” he wrote. “There’s no better way for America’s pastime to honor the great Hank Aaron, who always led by example.”

As of Saturday, MLB has not revealed the new host city for the 2021 All-Star Game.

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The ACLU, NAACP, and the Southern Poverty Law Center are suing Georgia over its new voting law

georgia voting
Demonstrators stand outside of the Georgia Capitol building on March 3, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Civil rights groups have filed a lawsuit against Georgia over its new voting law, the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund announced on Tuesday.

The lawsuit was brought against the state by the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Georgia, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), and law firms WilmerHale, and Davis Wright Tremaine.

The new voting law, SB 202, was signed by Gov. Brian Kemp last week.

It brings big changes to several aspects of the election process, and civil rights groups have said it suppresses voters, particularly Georgia’s Black voters.

This is a developing story. Please come back for updates.

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President Joe Biden said the Justice Department is looking into a new law in Georgia restricting access to voting, which he called an ‘atrocity’

Biden
US President Joe Biden speaks to the press after disembarking from Airforce One after arriving in Wilmington, Delaware on March 26, 2021.

  • President Joe Biden said the Justice Department is looking at new voting laws in Georgia.
  • The bill restricts voting access, and have been compared to racist Jim Crow laws.
  • The bill faces legal challenges, with civil rights groups saying it violates the Constitution.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

President Joe Biden said that the Justice Department is “taking a look at” a sweeping new bill in Georgia restricting voting rights he described as an “atrocity.”

The new law was signed by Republican governor Brian Kemp on Thursday, and places stricter requirements on providing identification for voters casting absentee ballots, limits the number of drop boxes for ballots, gives state officials more power over how elections are run, and bans giving food and drink to people waiting in line to vote.

In remarks to reporters, Biden called the move an “atrocity” and “Jim Crow for the 21st Century.”

When a reporter asked how the White House would respond, Biden replied: “We’re working on that right now.”

“We don’t know quite exactly what we can do at this point. The Justice Department’s taking a look as well,” Biden said.

“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,” he said.

Critics have likened the Georgia bill to the “Jim Crow” laws that enforced racial segregation in the South, saying that they will disproportionately impact Black voters who have been pivotal to recent Democratic victories in the state.

Biden became the first Democratic presidential contender to win the state since 1991 last year, and in January’s Senate runoff elections in January, both Democratic candidates were victorious.

In a statement Friday, Biden urged Congress to pass a sweeping voting rights bill designed by Democrats to counteract attempts by Republicans to restrict voting.

The bill has passed the House but is unlikely to muster the 60 votes in the Senate required to overcome a potential Republican filibuster.

segregation water fountain jim crow laws racism water fountains
Opponents of the Georgia’s new voting laws say they hark back to he US’ history of segregation.

The Georgia bill faces several challenges from civil rights groups, who argue that it violates the US Constitution’s First and Fourteenth amendments and the 1965 Voting Rights Act forbidding states from passing laws to reduce minority participation in elections.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has denied the Georgia law is a bid to disenfranchise Black voters.

“There is nothing ‘Jim Crow’ about requiring a photo or state-issued ID to vote by absentee ballot – every Georgia voter must already do so when voting in-person,” he said. “President Biden, the left, and the national media are determined to destroy the sanctity and security of the ballot box.”

Republicans have long claimed that elections are exposed to widespread fraud, and Donald Trump, after his defeat last year, has pushed the claim, dismissed in a slew of court cases, that his loss resulted from widespread fraud.

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