By amending its election laws, Georgia will be one step closer to safer, more accessible and fairer elections, he said.
Kemp, who is up for re-election next year, refused last year to accede to former President Donald Trump’s demands to overturn Biden’s victory, which Trump publicly condemned. But Kemp said Thursday that troubling issues in the 2020 election show that change is needed.
He predicted that critics of the new law would threaten, boycott, sue, demonize and join their friends in the national media in calling me every name they could.
The new law introduces new identification requirements for absentee voting, allows state officials to take over the duties of local election commissions, restricts the use of ballot boxes, and criminalizes accosting voters waiting in line for food and water.
It’s like a Christmas tree made of candy to suppress voters, the Democratic state senator said. Jen Jordan on the Senate floor as lawmakers prepared to vote on the nearly 100-page bill Thursday.
Republicans have called the measure, the 2021 Election Integrity Act, necessary to boost confidence in elections after Trump made repeated and unfounded allegations of fraud in the 2020 election.
Thursday night, a lawsuit against the new law had already been filed by a trio of voting rights groups: the New Georgia Project, the Black Voter Foundation and Rice Inc.
First, due to racial disparities in non-electoral areas such as socioeconomic status, housing, and employment opportunities, the Voter Suppression Act has a disproportionate effect on black voters and interacts with these vestiges of discrimination in Georgia such that black voters are (a) denied an equal opportunity to participate in the political process and/or vote for the candidate of their choice, the lawsuit states.
The package is part of a national effort by Republicans to limit access to the ballot box after record turnout.
In his first press conference at the White House, Biden said Thursday that he would do everything in his power to stop attempts to restrict suffrage, calling the attempts in state legislatures un-American.
Proponents of voting rights argue that the state’s swift action – and plans by other Republican states to enact their own restrictions – underscores the need for a federal law to establish a national basis for voting rules.
Stacey Abrams, founder of Just Wrestling and former Democratic candidate for governor in Georgia, said Republicans in the state have shown their intent to revive Georgia’s dark past with racist voting laws.
Now more than ever, Americans must demand federal action to protect voting rights, she said in a statement.
Georgia’s bill has undergone significant changes in recent days. It went from a narrow two-page bill to a huge multi-page package and became law in just over a week. Activists and black religious leaders in the state are holding demonstrations and threatening to boycott businesses in a failed attempt to derail his promotion in the General Assembly.
They passed it as quickly as they could, said Jonathan Diaz, an election lawyer with the Election Law Center in Washington, D.C. I think they know that many of the provisions in this bill are not very popular.
Human rights advocates have expressed concern about a measure that would allow any Georgian to file an unlimited number of complaints about voter registration and eligibility, saying it could target voters of color. Democrats in the Georgia Senate criticized Thursday a measure that would eliminate the secretary of state’s position as chairman of the State Board of Elections and allow lawmakers to appoint his replacement, giving lawmakers three of the five appointments.
Election rights groups believe that giving the state new powers over district elections undermines the tradition of local control and could lead to a scenario where state officials intervene to prevent a district from certifying its election results.
Another provision shortens the run-out cycle from the current nine weeks to just four weeks.
During Thursday’s debate, Republican Representative Barry Fleming, one of the main architects of the new law, argued that it would allow for greater accountability in the state’s election process.
Republicans have repealed a number of restrictive provisions in previous legislation, including a proposal to eliminate voting without a valid reason.
The bill is part of a broader effort by GOP-led lawmakers across the country to pass restrictive voting measures in key states like Arizona, Michigan and Florida. According to calculations by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, lawmakers in 43 states had introduced more than 250 bills with restrictive voting provisions in February.
This is nothing short of a concerted national effort to limit access to voting rights for ordinary Americans, but especially for voters of color and voters who, frankly, are more likely to support Democrats, said Diaz of the Campaign Legal Center.
Officials from Heritage Action for America – one of the national Republican groups behind the effort to restrict access to voting rights in the name of voter integrity – praised Kemp, lawmakers and the 20,000 conservative activists they say have championed the review legislation.
Heritage officials say Georgia’s new law makes the state a model for the rest of the country.
The state’s changing demographics made this Republican stronghold a major political battleground last year.
Last November, Biden became the first Democrat in nearly three decades to win the state. And high turnout in January helped two Democrats get elected to the Senate, causing their party to lose control of the Senate. One of those new senators, Rafael Warnock, took his seat in the special election and will be on the ballot again in 2022.
Voters will be faced with significant changes in these elections. Voters will have to request their ballots eleven days before the election, instead of the Friday before election day, as is currently the case.
Voters requesting a ballot must provide a copy of their Georgia ID or driver’s license or state identification number to both request the ballot and vote. In addition, the Secretary of State’s office prohibits the mailing of unsolicited absentee ballot requests, as was the case prior to the 2020 primary due to the coronavirus pandemic.
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