Georgia Governor Brian Kemp on Thursday signed into law a sweeping Republican-sponsored overhaul of state elections that includes new restrictions on voting by mail and gives the legislature greater control over how elections are run.
Among other things, the law requires a photo ID in order to vote absentee by mail, after more than 1.3 million Georgia voters used that option during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also cuts the time people have to request an absentee ballot and limits where ballot drop boxes can be placed and when they can be accessed.
Democrats and voting rights groups say the law will disproportionately disenfranchise voters of color. It is part of a wave of GOP-backed election billsafter former President Trump stoked false claims that fraud led to his 2020 election defeat.
The bill, SB 202, passed the state House 100-75 earlier Thursday, before the state Senate quickly agreed to House changes 34-20. Republicans in the legislature were in support, while Democrats were opposed.
Kemp delivered remarks on the bill during a livestream and was interrupted by Georgia State Representative Park Cannon, according to CBS affiliate WGCL-TV. Cannon, who was among a group of protesters, knocked on Kemp’s door and was subsequently arrested by police. She has been charged with felony obstruction of law enforcement and preventing or disrupting General Assembly sessions or other meetings of members, a misdemeanor.
Conservative groups hailed the legislation’s passage, while liberals voiced their concern.
“While some on the Left attempted to suppress Georgian voters by pushing policies that undermine trust in the state’s elections, Gov. Kemp and Georgia legislators fought to restore voter trust and confidence,” said the conservative Heritage Action. “And today, they succeeded — this is a massive victory for every single Georgian voter and for our country. … Thanks to them, Georgia is now leading the nation in free, fair, and safe elections — the rest of the nation should follow.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center said Georgia Republican leaders were “cowering to extremists” with the legislation.
“Thousands of voters have made it clear that the types of provisions in SB 202 are unacceptable and will disproportionately harm historically disenfranchised communities, young voters, and voters with disabilities,” said Nancy Abudu, deputy legal director for the SPLC Action Fund. “The speed and magnitude of today’s shift in election policy in Georgia is unprecedented and unlike any other major policy shift in the state’s recent history.”
President Biden on Thursday in his first press conference as president expressed openness to amending the filibuster on certain issues, like voting rights.
“Filibusters broke down, and we were able to break the filibuster, get a quorum, and vote. So I strongly support moving in that direction, in addition to having an open mind about dealing with certain things that are — are just elemental to the functioning of our democracy, like the right to vote — like the basic right to vote. We’ve amended the filibuster in the past,” he said.