- 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.
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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.
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.