Republican Governor Brian Kemp signs the law S.B. 202, a restrictive voting law that activists have said aimed to curtail the influence of Black voters who were instrumental in state elections that helped Democrats win the White House and narrow control of the U.S. Senate, in this handout photo posted to Kemp’s Twitter feed on March 25, 2021.
Governor Brian Kemp’s Twitter feed | Handout via Reuters
President Joe Biden on Friday condemned a sweeping GOP-backed election reform bill signed into law Thursday evening in Georgia that would add new identification requirements to absentee voting, limit ballot drop boxes and prohibit offering food or water to voters in line, among other provisions.
“This is Jim Crow in the 21st Century,” Biden said in a statement, comparing the legislation to the notorious voting restrictions that kept people of color from casting ballots in the South before the civil rights movement. “It must end. We have a moral and Constitutional obligation to act.”
Biden told reporters Friday the White House and Justice Department are looking into what they can do regarding the law.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed the 96-page bill into law Thursday evening, just hours after Republican state legislators passed the overhaul of election rules, known as S.B. 202.
Democratic state Rep. Park Cannon was arrested by Georgia state troopers on Thursday after she knocked on Kemp’s office door as he signed S.B. 202 into law.
The new election rules in Georgia come as Senate Democrats aim to pass a federal election reform bill, the For the People Act, amid a wave of Republican-backed voter restrictions proposed in state legislatures across the country.
“This law, like so many others being pursued by Republicans in statehouses across the country is a blatant attack on the Constitution and good conscience,” Biden said. He said provisions of S.B. 202 “effectively deny the right to vote to countless voters.”
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement Friday that S.B. 202 expands voting opportunities because the bill increases the number of early voting days.
The debate over election integrity came to a head this year when conspiracy theories about widespread voter fraud led violent pro-Trump rioters to storm the Capitol on Jan. 6 in an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Biden in his statement urged Congress to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
Advocacy groups such as the New Georgia Project and Black Voters Matter Fund have called on Biden to push Congress to pass the two pieces of federal voting rights legislation by supporting measures such as abolishing the Senate filibuster.
Biden in his first press conference on Thursday signaled he may support scrapping, rather than reforming, the Senate filibuster if his priorities get held up in Congress.
“If we have to, if there’s complete lockdown and chaos as a consequence of the filibuster, then we’ll have to go beyond what I’m talking about,” he told reporters.
Biden has said he supports going back to a so-called talking filibuster, where lawmakers have to actively hold the Senate floor to block legislation. As of now, the Senate needs 60 votes to move ahead with a bill — which means Republicans can block the vast majority of bills in a chamber divided 50-50 by party.
— CNBC’s Jacob Pramuk contributed to this report.
Correction: Biden’s first press conference was on Thursday. A previous version of this story misstated the day.