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'Jim Crow in the 21st Century': Biden Rebukes Georgia's New Voter Suppression Law

"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."

President Joe Biden speaks as Vice President Kamala Harris looks on during a listening session with Georgia Asian American and Pacific Islander community leaders at Emory University in Atlanta on March 19, 2021. (Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images)

President Joe Biden speaks as Vice President Kamala Harris looks on during a listening session with Georgia Asian American and Pacific Islander community leaders at Emory University in Atlanta on March 19, 2021. (Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images)

President Joe Biden on Friday blasted a sweeping voter suppression law that Georgia Republicans forced through the previous day, declaring that "we have a moral and constitutional obligation to act" in response to the new legislation and calling on Congress to pass a pair of proposals that aim to protect and expand voting rights.

"I once again urge Congress to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to make it easier for all eligible Americans access the ballot box and prevent attacks on the sacred right to vote."
—President Joe Biden

"This is Jim Crow in the 21st century. It must end," Biden said in a lengthy statement about the Georgia law. "I once again urge Congress to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to make it easier for all eligible Americans access the ballot box and prevent attacks on the sacred right to vote."

The president noted the crucial impact that Georgia voters had on national politics in the 2020 election cycle. Not only did Biden narrowly beat former President Donald Trump in Georgia—by a margin of just 11,779 votes—but Peach State voters also handed control of the U.S. Senate to Democrats with a pair of runoff elections.

"More Americans voted in the 2020 elections than any election in our nation's history. In Georgia we saw this most historic demonstration of the power of the vote twice," Biden said Friday. "Recount after recount and court case after court case upheld the integrity and outcome of a clearly free, fair, and secure democratic process."

"Yet instead of celebrating the rights of all Georgians to vote or winning campaigns on the merits of their ideas, Republicans in the state instead rushed through an un-American law to deny people the right to vote," the president continued. "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."

As Common Dreams reported earlier this month, Republican lawmakers in 43 states have introduced more than 250 voter suppression bills this year.

Biden detailed some ways the Georgia law will overhaul future elections statewide:

Among the outrageous parts of this new state law, it ends voting hours early so working people can't cast their vote after their shift is over. It adds rigid restrictions on casting absentee ballots that will effectively deny the right to vote to countless voters. And it makes it a crime to provide water to voters while they wait in line—lines Republican officials themselves have created by reducing the number of polling sites across the state, disproportionately in Black neighborhoods.

Speaking with reporters before boarding Marine One on Friday, the president also noted the new water rule.

"It's an atrocity," he said. "If you want any indication that it has nothing to do with fairness, nothing to do with decency—they passed a 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 design to keep people from voting.  You can't provide water for people about to vote? Give me a break."

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Biden, in his statement, also vowed, "I will take my case to the American people—including Republicans who joined the broadest coalition of voters ever in this past election to put country before party."

According to CNN:

Asked if there was anything the White House could do to protect voting rights in Georgia, Biden told reporters on a tarmac in Delaware, "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."

A spokesperson for the Justice Department told CNN earlier Friday that the agency is "aware of the law," but had no further comment.

On Thursday, GOP Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed the unpopular bill into law—while seated beneath a painting of a former slave plantation—less than two hours after the state's Republican lawmakers gave it final approval. During a news conference, he pushed back against the "Jim Crow" comments that have stacked up in recent weeks.

As Eric Lutz wrote for Vanity Fair on Friday:

The victory Thursday for anti-democracy Republicans underscores the importance of Democrats' fight, and adds even more urgency to their push to enact the For the People Act, the passage of which will almost certainly require them to at the very least change the Senate filibuster. Biden has signaled support for amending it, particularly amid the GOP's "un-American" disenfranchisement crusade. "It's sick," Biden said in a press conference Thursday, vowing to do "everything" he can to stop Republicans' "pernicious" efforts to roll back Americans' rights.

Republican politicians across the country "are making clear that there's nothing they won't do in their effort to limit voter participation," Lutz concluded. "For the sake of democracy, Democrats must show the same level of resolve in fighting back."

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