Georgia Republicans passed restrictive new changes to the state election process on Thursday, after weeks of debate about how to tighten voting laws in the state. The new law adds a new host of restrictions, like identification requirements for mail voting and making it illegal to bring food or water to voters in line to cast a ballot.
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 touting the bill.
Trump baselessly claimed the Georgia election was stolen from him, pressured Republican election officials to investigate, and dismissed their claims that the election was secure and that the results were accurate.
Republican lawmakers in the General Assembly seized on Trump’s false claims and pushed dozens of restrictive voting bills this year. Kemp said he and state lawmakers set out to make it “easy to vote and hard to cheat.”
“The bill I signed into law does just that,” he added.
Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams, founder of voting rights group Fair Fight, said in a statement that the law was “blatantly unconstitutional” and “nothing less than Jim Crow 2.0.”
Democrats unilaterally opposed the bill’s passage, and Kemp’s press conference was interrupted for several minutes with the governor walking way from the podium midway through his remarks asking, “what’s the problem?” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that outside the room, Democratic state Rep. Park Cannon was arrested as she knocked on the door to the press conference and then 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 the bill cuts down the required early voting required for runoff elections from three weeks to one week. In January, runoff elections sent Democratic Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff and to Washington, securing the party’s majority in the Senate.
The law allows the state legislature to appoint the chair of the State Election Board; previously, the Board was chaired by Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican who sparred with Trump over the accuracy of the state’s election. The bill also allows that State Election Board to takeover county election administration.
The new law will require mail voters to include their driver’s license numbers or other documentation to verify their identify, instead of signature verification. Drop boxes can only be located inside election offices and early voting locations, curbing their usefulness. It also shortens the window for requesting an absentee ballot
People will be prohibited from bringing food and water to voters waiting in line, something that has become common in past Georgia elections, where voters have waited extremely long hours to cast a ballot in the past.
The bill standardizes early voting across the state, which will likely lead to expanded early voting in many counties. But it standardizes the hours for most early voting to between 9-5 p.m., which will likely limit the hours in larger counties like Fulton County, which has previously offered early voting till 7 p.m. at night.
Biden appeared to refer to some of Georgia’s proposed restrictions earlier today when asked about proposed voting restrictions in his press 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 5:00 when working people are just getting off work.”