15:47 GMT16 April 2021
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    A new sweeping Georgia voting law signed by Governor Brian Kemp on Thursday limits the use of ballot drop boxes, requires state voters to produce photo IDs for absentee ballots, cuts short the deadline for request absentee ballots and makes it illegal for people to provide food or water to voters while they wait in lines to cast their ballots.

    US President Joe Biden on Friday slammed the new voting law in Georgia, calling it “un-American” and a “blatant attack on the constitution and good conscience.” In addition, the president likened the law to “Jim Crow in the 21st century,” referring to laws enacted by white Southern state legislatures to enforce racial segregation and disenfranchise black people.

    The voting legislation, signed into law by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp on Thursday, makes several big changes to Georgia’s elections, including giving the State Elections Board more control over local election offices. The law would allow the board to temporarily suspend county-level election directors and election boards, which Democrats have expressed concern with.

    In addition, the bill requires voters to present a government-issued ID to apply for an absentee ballot and include an identifying number from a government-issued ID on the ballot envelope. This provision is a diversion from the current system, which uses signature verification to authenticate absentee ballot applications and ballots.

    On Friday, Kemp retorted to Biden’s comments on the law, noting “it is obvious that neither” the president “nor his handlers have actually read” the bill. 

    “There is nothing ‘Jim Crow’ about requiring a photo or state-issued ID to vote by absentee ballot – every Georgia voter must already do so when voting in-person,” he argued 

    Meanwhile, former US president Donald Trump, who lost Georgia in the 2020 presidential elections, celebrated the new law.

    “Congratulations to Georgia and the Georgia State Legislature on changing their voter Rules and Regulations,” Trump said through his political action committee Save America. “They learned from the travesty of the 2020 Presidential Election, which can never be allowed to happen again. Too bad these changes could not have been done sooner!”

    The latest law comes after Georgia went blue for the first time in nearly three decades during the 2020 presidential election, and also after Democrats won both of Georgia’s Senate seats for the first time in almost 20 years in January. 

    While Kemp has argued that the law will help to ensure that elections are fair and secure, many Democrats and civil rights groups have argued that the Republican-backed law would make it harder for people, particularly black voters, to cast ballots.

    ​On Friday, several civil law groups, including New Georgia Project, Black Voters Matter Fund and Rise, filed a lawsuit against Georgia election officials, stating that the voting restrictions signed into law by Kemp, violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the 14th Amendment.

    “These provisions lack any justification for their burdensome and discriminatory effects on voting,” the lawsuit notes, referring to the fact that such laws would allegedly disproportionately impact communities of color. “Instead, they represent a hodgepodge of unnecessary restrictions that target almost every aspect of the voting process but serve no legitimate purpose or compelling state interest other than to make absentee, early, and election-day voting more difficult — especially for minority voters”.


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