Just hours after the Republican-controlled Georgia legislature passed a sweeping voting restrictions bill, Gov. Brian Kemp signed it into law March 25.
The law imposes new voter identification requirements for absentee ballots; empowers state officials to take over local elections boards; limits the use of ballot drop boxes; allows for unlimited challenges to a voter’s qualifications; cuts the runoff election period from nine to four weeks shortens the time voters have to request an absentee ballot and criminalizes giving food and water to voters waiting in line at polling places.
The law also expands early voting by requiring it on two Saturdays rather than one. And it removes the Georgia Secretary of State as chair of the State Election Board, instead making that position one elected by the General Assembly.
“Significant reforms to our state elections were needed,” Kemp told the media after signing the bill. “There’s no doubt there were many alarming issues with how the election was handled, and those problems, understandably, led to a crisis of confidence.”
Republicans pushed through the voting reform after Georgia saw record voter turnout in November that helped elect President Joe Biden and flip the U.S. Senate to Democratic control during a runoff in January.
Biden compared Georgia and other Republican-controlled state legislatures pushing for voting restrictions to the Jim Crow era.
“What I’m worried about is how un-American this whole initiative is,” Biden said during a March 25 press conference. “It’s sick. It’s sick.”
The legislation drew many protests from advocates who said the changes will make it more difficult to vote, especially for minority voters, and that it followed conspiracy theories about the validity of President Trump’s loss of Georgia’s presidential election. A protest scheduled for late afternoon on March 25 by Black Voters Matter at UPS headquarters in Sandy Springs was not held, but by that time the bill had been approved by the Senate and sent to the governor. Black Voters Matter is now among the groups joining a lawsuit against the law.
State Rep. Park Cannon (D-Atlanta) was removed from the State Capitol during protests over the governor signing controversial voter reform into law. Video posted on social media showed Cannon knocking on Kemp’s office door at the capitol while he was addressing the media.