Biden urges Congress to pass election reform in wake of Georgia voting restrictions

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President Joe Biden slammed Georgia’s new voting restrictions, calling them 21st-century “Jim Crow” and urging Congress to pass election reform bills.

“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 in a statement Friday afternoon. “This is Jim Crow in the 21st Century. It must end. We have a moral and Constitutional obligation to act.”

In the statement, Biden called on Congress to pass H.R. 1, or the “For the People Act,” which would reform ballot access and campaign finance. It would require states to offer same-day voting registration as well as two weeks of early voting, among other things. The House passed the bill earlier this month but it faces an uphill battle in the Senate amid heavy Republican criticism of the bill. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the bill is about “rigging the system.”

Biden also urged Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would bring back Voting Rights Act protections that the Supreme Court took down.

Later on Friday afternoon, Biden told reporters that the new law is an “atrocity."

"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."

On Thursday, Biden expressed an openness to scrapping the filibuster for “certain things that are just elemental to the functioning of our democracy, like the right to vote.”

Georgia’s broad new elections law will add an ID requirement for voters requesting an absentee ballot, cut the length of runoffs, and effectively turn the election board over to the legislature. It also limits drop boxes and prohibits people from giving voters in line food or beverages. Voters in Georgia’s primaries faced several-hour lines at times, particularly near and in Atlanta, a heavily Democratic area in the closely divided state.

The changes passed by Republicans in the state legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp Thursday come after Democrats swept a pivotal Senate runoff election in January, giving Democrats a majority in the chamber.

Republicans in and out of Georgia, especially those backing former President Donald Trump, have pushed new voting restrictions, citing “election integrity” despite no evidence of widespread voter fraud. Democrats and voting rights advocates have called the efforts “voter suppression.”

Biden had slammed efforts to constrain voting access at his first formal news conference Thursday, calling them “sick.”

“What I’m worried about is how un-American this whole initiative is,” Biden said.

Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) also slammed Georgia’s new voting restrictions on Friday.

“What the state Legislature did yesterday is to try to arrest the voices and the votes of the people,” Warnock said.

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