A coalition of civil rights groups has filed a federal lawsuit against Georgia’s sweeping new voting restrictions, arguing that the Republican-backed bill aims to make it difficult for people – especially black voters – to cast ballots.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden, who became the first Democratic presidential candidate in three decades to win Georgia in the November elections, accused Republicans there and in other states of wreaking havoc on the right to vote.

The law stipulates stricter identification requirements, limits dropboxing, gives lawmakers the power to hold local elections, and shortens the early term for all runoff elections, among other things. It also makes it a crime for the people to offer food and water to the voters standing in line.

Republican Governor Brian Kemp signs an electoral law that activists said will reduce the influence of black voters. This handout photo was posted on Kemp’s Twitter feed on March 25, 2021.

The legislature has alarmed the Democrats, who a few months ago celebrated historic victories in Georgia’s presidential election and two Senate campaigns that helped hand over the White House and control of the US Senate to their Washington party.

“It’s an atrocity,” Biden told reporters Friday shortly after comparing the restrictions to racist laws that had kept blacks from voting for decades.

United States President Joe Biden speaks to reporters when he arrives at New Castle Airport in New Castle, Delaware on March 26, 2021.

He has called on Congress to pass a democracy-backed bill that requires automatic registration, extends out-of-office voting, and relaxes voter identification laws. So far, the Republican opposition in the divided US Senate has hindered these efforts.

Lawsuit: “Discriminatory Effects on Voting”

The Georgia lawsuit was filed in federal court in Atlanta after the legislation was passed Thursday by the New Georgia Project, the Black Voters Matter Fund, and Rise Inc. Marc Elias, a Democratic lawyer who led the party’s electoral efforts last year, represents the groups.

“These provisions have no justification for their onerous and discriminatory effects on voting,” the lawsuit said.

“Instead, they represent a multitude of unnecessary restrictions that target almost every aspect of the voting process, but serve no legitimate purpose or overriding state interest other than to make absenteeism, early and election day elections difficult – especially for minority voters.”

Biden said restrictions were “outrageous” and “un-American”.

“We have a moral and constitutional obligation to act,” he said, possibly hinting at an upcoming legal battle over the measure.

Republican answer

Other Republican-controlled lawmakers are pursuing election restrictions in key battlefield states, including Florida and Arizona, after former President Donald Trump repeatedly attributed his loss to Biden to massive electoral fraud with no evidence.

Republicans have defended the legislation as necessary to make “our elections fair and safe,” as Georgia Governor Brian Kemp put it when he signed the law Thursday.

Democrats and electorates lamented the restrictions, which lawmakers passed solely with the support of Republicans, as a revival of racially discriminatory electoral laws that will harm voters in minority communities already plagued by long lines and inadequate electoral infrastructure.

The Georgian Foreign Minister Brad Raffensperger informed about the status of the elections and the number of ballots during a message.

FILE – Georgian Foreign Secretary Brad Raffensperger speaks at a press conference at the State Capitol in Atlanta, Georgia on Nov. 6, 2020.

When he denied his national loss to Biden, Trump focused much of his energy on Georgia. He once called personally the state’s Republican Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, and asked him to “find” voices that Trump said had disappeared.

This call is part of a prosecutor’s criminal investigation into whether Trump broke electoral law by pressuring officials to change the results.

Trump’s allegations of electoral fraud have compounded longstanding Republican warnings that stricter laws are needed, although research shows such cases are vanishingly rare.

In a February Reuters / Ipsos poll, 62% of Republicans said they were “very concerned” that the election was being compromised by ineligible people casting votes. Weeks leading up to the October election, 47% of Republicans expressed the same concern.