The struggle for voting rights is emerging as one of the crucial conflicts of the Biden era, and Georgia has fired the first shot with a series of new restrictions that underscore the political, legal, and financial conflicts that will affect whether Republicans will Retake Congress and the White House.
President Biden called the new Georgian law an “attack on the constitution” on Friday and said the Justice Department had “taken a look at the republican referendum efforts in the state” without giving details.
“This is Jim Crow in the 21st century, it has to come to an end,” Biden said the day after Governor Brian Kemp signed the law. “I will take my case to the American people – including the Republicans who joined the broadest coalition of voters in the last election to put the country before the party.
“When you have the best ideas, you have nothing to hide. Let the people vote. “
Civil rights groups immediately challenged the Georgian law in federal court, backed by prominent democratic electoral lawyers. Calling the upcoming legal battle an existential battle for representation, several black leaders said the law clearly sets a target for black and brown voters. Protests against election restrictions took place this week in state capitals such as Austin, Texas and Atlanta, and more lawsuits are expected.
In more than 24 states, Republican lawmakers are pushing bills forward in a broad political effort that is the most aggressive attack on the franchise since the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Months of Republican efforts followed to tarnish Mr Biden’s presidential victory, which many high-ranking GOP officials still do not recognize as legitimate.
Democrats, who have limited power in many state capitals, are looking to Mr. Biden and the Congress Democrats to introduce new federal law protecting voting rights. Many in the party view the battle to vote as not only a moral but also a political issue, given the low profit margins they have in presidential and Senate elections in Georgia, Arizona, and other battlefields.
Georgia’s sweeping new regulations, passed by a Republican-controlled legislature, represent the most fundamental overhaul of a battlefield nation’s electoral system since last November’s elections. Voters waiting in line to give water and snacks.
But in a state where former President Donald J. Trump tried to convince Republican electoral officials to undo his loss, the measure went even further: it shifted power and control of the elections to the legislature by giving the Secretary of State the chairmanship of the State Council is withdrawn from elections and authorizes the legislature to nominate members to the board of directors. It also empowers the State Board of Elections to have extensive jurisdiction over county election boards, including the power to suspend officials.
Mr Biden on Friday called Georgia’s new election restrictions “un-American” and attempted to link them to pressure from Democrats in Washington to pass the federal voting rights bill that the House passed this month. The move would create a number of requirements to protect voting rights, including relaxing restrictive state identification requirements, extending early and mail-in voting, and restoring the right to vote for ex-offenders.
The president said the new Georgian law was specifically what the House bill was supposed to prevent. While Democrats in Congress debate the abolition of the filibuster to pass the Senate voting bill, Republican lawmakers in more than 40 states have introduced hundreds of bills that regulate access to votes and the assumption of authority in administering elections aim.
Another crucial conflict looms this fall: the struggles over redistribution to accommodate growing and changing populations, and gerrymandering, which allows partisan majorities to limit the impact of votes by packing or splitting up population centers .
The gerrymandering disputes will shape the look of the house and dozens of state legislatures, in many cases a majority for the next decade.
Even in states with democratic governors who can veto the legislation, bitter struggles over the right to vote are threatened. In Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, Republican-controlled lawmakers plan to push restrictive bills, and new Republican governors would most likely sign them when they are elected next year.
“The 2020 elections are behind us, but the war for the future of our democracy is escalating,” said Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat who is secretary of state in Michigan, where Republicans put numerous proposed election restrictions in place this week. “For everyone to believe that they can sit down and rest because the 2020 elections are behind schedule, all they have to do is look at what happened in Georgia to indicate that our work is far from over.”
Republicans, borrowing the language of their previous efforts to restrict access to voting, have described the new bills as a way to simplify voting while limiting fraud. When Mr Kemp signed the bill, he said it would “make voting easier and make cheating more difficult”, even though state Republican electoral officials found no substantial evidence of fraud.
Mr Kemp pushed back Mr Biden’s criticism on Friday, saying, “It is nothing ‘Jim Crow’ to ask for a photo or state-issued ID to vote in absentia.”
“President Biden, the left and the national media are determined to destroy the sanctity and security of the ballot box,” said Kemp. “As Foreign Minister, I consistently fought against power-hungry partisan activists to protect the elections in Georgia.”
Jessica Anderson, executive director of Heritage Action for America, the political arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation, said Georgia will serve as a model for other Republican-led states.
“The country was watching closely what Georgia would do,” Ms. Anderson said in an interview. “The fact that they were able to push through these reforms sets the tone and puts Georgia in a leadership role for other states.”
The Justice Ministry was aware of Georgia’s electoral law, a spokeswoman said Friday, but made no further comment. A White House official said the president assumed in his comments that this was an issue the department would look into.
The division’s civil rights division would most likely have attorneys investigate whether to file an independent lawsuit, said Tom Perez, the former labor secretary who previously headed the division’s civil rights division during the Obama administration. You can also participate in the case filed by civil rights groups by filing a so-called declaration of interest or intervening as a plaintiff, he said.
However, this is a precarious time for the existing federal protection. In 2013, the Supreme Court gutted one of the core provisions of the Voting Rights Act, clearing the runway for a large part of the current voting rights restriction legislation. The remaining protection in Section 2 of the Act faces a new challenge in the Supreme Court, with arguments heard last month.
The debate extends to the corporate arena as well. Activists across the country have punished companies they consider silent on the issue of voting rights. In Georgia, numerous civil rights groups and religious leaders on Friday called for the boycott of some of the flag-bearers in Georgian business – including Coca-Cola – pending action against efforts to restrict electoral access.
The early battle lines are increasingly focused on two key states that switched from Republican to Democratic in 2020, Arizona and Georgia. Large populations of color voters who were exposed to historically discriminatory laws in the elections also live in these states.
Two battlefield states that remained under Republican control in 2020 – Texas and Florida – are also pushing new laws that restrict voting.
In Florida, lawmakers are trying to ban dropboxing and limit who can, among other things, collect ballots for other voters, even after an election that the Republican chairman of the state party touted as the “gold standard” and which Republicans have handily won.
Blaise Ingoglia, a Republican official who sponsored some of the legislation, said the elections were successful but “not without challenges and problems that we believe we can fix”. He cited the use of ballot boxes that he helped write in the law, but said they were not being properly administered.
“They said the same thing with the last electoral law that we wrote it and they said it was voter suppression, and just the opposite happened: we had more people in Florida than ever before,” he said. “We have 40 election days with three different options. How can someone say voter suppression? “
In Arizona, Republican lawmakers passed laws that would remove voters who skip consecutive election cycles from the permanent early voting list. The list currently consists of approximately 3.2 million voters, and critics of the legislation estimate that it would purge approximately 100,000 voters.
The Wisconsin Republicans have proposed many restrictions on the disabled, new restrictions on automatic collection of postal ballot papers, and a requirement that postal voters must present photo identification each time they vote – as opposed to having to present file identification to their community clerk.
The measures will certainly be opposed by Governor Tony Evers, a Democrat, but their sponsor, Republican Senator Duey Stroebel, said Friday that the legislation would summarize the party’s principles for the mid-term election.
“It will define that, as Republicans, we are people who want clean and fair elections in the state,” said Stroebel.
Wisconsin Democrats, convinced of Mr. Evers’ veto, are keen to see a battle for voting rights at the fore ahead of the 2022 elections, Democratic Senator Kelda Roys said.
“People hate the idea that their voting rights are being attacked,” Ms. Roys said. “Freedom of choice is just popular. It’s a great topic for Democrats. “
The flow of Republican electoral law is undermining confidence in elections, according to Democrats.
“Even in states where they are not passed and have been introduced, such as Colorado, they are dangerous,” said Jena Griswold, the foreign minister in Colorado. “The rhetoric of lying and trying to manipulate Americans in order to maintain political power is dangerous. It led to all the death threats secretaries of state and election officials received in 2020. It led to the uprising. “
Reporting was contributed by Jennifer Medina, Patricia Mazzei, Katie Benner and Thomas Kaplan.