Georgia Republicans passed restrictive changes to the state election process Thursday after weeks of debate about how to tighten voting laws. The new law adds a host of restrictions, like requiring identification for mail voting and making it illegal to take food or water to voters in line.
Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed the bill into law immediately, calling it “common sense” legislation while aligning himself with former President Donald Trump in remarks promoting the bill.
Within hours, Marc Elias, an election lawyer with prominent Democratic clients, announced a lawsuit that argues the new measures violate the Fourteenth Amendment and Voting Rights Act.
Trump baselessly claimed that the election was stolen from him in Georgia and pressured Republican election officials to investigate. He dismissed their claims that the election was secure and that the results were accurate.
March 26, 202101:20
Republican legislators seized on Trump’s false claims and pushed dozens of restrictive voting bills this year. Kemp said he and legislators set out to make it “easy to vote and hard to cheat.”
“The bill I signed into law does just that,” he said.
Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams, founder of the voting rights group Fair Fight, said in a statement that the law was “blatantly unconstitutional” and “nothing less than Jim Crow 2.0.”
Democrats opposed the bill’s passage, and Kemp’s news conference was interrupted for several minutes with Kemp walking way from the podium midway through his remarks asking, “What’s the problem?”
Outside the room, Democratic state Rep. Park Cannon was arrested as she knocked on the door to the news conference and then was dragged through the Capitol in handcuffs.
The 95-page bill adds a spate of changes to the state election process.
It will dramatically shorten runoff elections from nine weeks to less than a month and cut the early voting period required for runoff elections from three weeks to one week. In January, runoff elections sent Democratic Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff to Washington, securing the party’s majority in the Senate.
The law allows the Legislature to appoint the chair of the State Election Board; previously, the board was chaired by the secretary of state. The current secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, sparred with Trump over the accuracy of the state’s election. The bill also allows that State Election Board to take over county election administration.
The law will require mail-in voters to include their driver’s license numbers or other documentation to verify their identities, instead of using signature verification. Drop boxes can be located only inside election offices and early voting locations, curbing their usefulness. It also shortens the window to request absentee ballots.
People will be prohibited from taking food and water to voters waiting in line, which has become common in past Georgia elections, in which voters have waited extremely long hours to cast ballots in the past.
“Today, democracy was assaulted,” Elias, the elections lawyer, said Thursday night on MSNBC, adding that he was filing the lawsuit on behalf of the New Georgia Project, Black Voters Matter, and Rise, a student group.
“These laws are all aimed at disenfranchising Black voters and also young voters,” Elias said on “The Rachel Maddow Show.”
President Joe Biden appeared to refer to some of Georgia’s proposals earlier in the day when asked about proposed voting restrictions in his news conference.
“It’s sick,” Biden said. “Deciding in some states that you cannot bring water to people standing in line waiting to vote, deciding that you’re going to end voting at 5 when working people are just getting off work.”