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Georgia Democratic Senator Rev. Raphael Warnock called on Joe Biden on Sunday to prioritize the fight against voter suppression, telling the US president, “We definitely need to pass the suffrage.”
The controversial legislation introducing comprehensive new election restrictions was signed by Georgian Governor Brian Kemp last week. This spearheaded an apparent effort by Republicans in dozens of states to dramatically restrict access to the electoral process for blacks and other minority voters who do slender Democrats.
The president has described Georgia’s move as “un-American” and “Jim Crow in the 21st century,” a reference to post-civil war segregation legislation.
However, some proponents are concerned that his fledgling administration appears to be more concerned about adopting a $ 3 billion economic package focused on infrastructure than tackling what Warnock calls an “attack on democracy”.
“We have to work on the infrastructure of our country, our roads and bridges, and we have to work on the infrastructure of our democracy,” Warnock told CNN’s State of the Union.
Two bills currently before Congress would counter the Republicans’ strategy of suppressing voters.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which Warnock addressed in his first speech in January in the Senate, would allow the courts to block new electoral laws from states believed to violate federal law and give the electoral process greater federal oversight to impose.
The second law, the For the People Act, which the House has already passed, would require states to vote at least 15 days early, allow universal access to postal voting, allow voter registration on election day, and a national holiday for voting to accomplish.
Both bills face an uncertain fate in the U.S. Senate that has sparked heated debate over whether Democrats should remove the filibuster and remove the 60-vote requirement for passage.
Biden called on Congress on Sunday to pass the two bills and tweeted: “We must facilitate access to the ballot box for all eligible Americans and prevent attacks on sacred suffrage.”
I urge Congress to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. We must give all eligible Americans easier access to the ballot box and prevent attacks on sacred suffrage.
– President Biden (@POTUS) March 28, 2021
The backlash in Georgia came immediately after Kemp signed the legislation on Thursday afternoon, which imposes stricter requirements on ID voters, restricts ballot box availability and reduces the time voters can request and return postal ballot papers.
A member of the Black Democratic State Assembly, Park Cannon, was arrested by Georgia state police for knocking on Kemp’s locked door while the signing was being held privately. Protesters took to the streets of Atlanta on Saturday to support Park.
Meanwhile, the Atlanta Journal Constitution has accused heads of state of “marching backwards into history.”
“People … will see these restrictions on what they really are: a house hastily built on moving sandy beaches. Verifiable facts or statistics are not part of the basis for the unjustified package of changes that were quickly incorporated into law behind closed doors on Thursday, ”the editorial said, referring to Donald Trump’s false allegations of fraud in the Georgia presidential election.
Nikema Williams, a newly-elected black US Congressman for Georgia, told CNN on Sunday that she believed the victories of the new Democratic US Senators Warnock and Jon Ossoff after Biden’s November loss to Trump in a traditionally red state sparked a wish for revenge.
“The Republicans are pushing back and they are upset that we won,” she said. “And so now they will do everything in their power to prevent people who look mostly like me from voting.”
Kemp suffered the former president’s wrath in December for not supporting his lies about a stolen election, but has since stated that he would support Trump for another run at the White House in 2024.
Kemp sparked outrage last week when he signed new state legislation in front of a painting of a slavery-era plantation building surrounded only by white men.
“I gasped,” Kimberley Wallace, whose family members had worked the plantation for generations and had a history of growing grain and slavery, told CNN. She said the moment was “very rude and very disrespectful to me, my family and the blacks in Georgia”.