Tue, Jan 11, 2022 4:31 PM
By Nyamekye Daniel | The Center Square, The Center Square
(The Center Square) – Georgia Republicans reaffirmed their stance behind the state's election reforms in response Tuesday to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris' visit to rally for federal voting rights legislation.
Gov. Brian Kemp touted the benefits of the Georgia Election Integrity Act and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger made his recommendations for federal election laws ahead of the Biden and Harris Atlanta tour.
The Biden administration has called Georgia "ground zero" for voter suppression because of its election reforms. Kemp said the administration and other critics created a false narrative about the measure.
"Ignoring facts and evidence, this administration has lied about Georgia's Election Integrity Act from the beginning, in an effort to force their unconstitutional federal takeover of elections on American people," Kemp said.
The measure was signed into law by Kemp in March. It requires absentee voters have to write their driver's license number, identification card number, voter registration number or the last four digits of their Social Security number with their birthdate on ballots. It requires ballot drop boxes to be inside of early voting locations except for during a declared emergency and shortens the time for absentee ballot requests, among other things. It is facing a slew of legal challenges.
Biden and Harris are pushing Congress to vote on the Freedom to Vote and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement acts. The measures would preempt state laws.
The pair started their tour Tuesday at the Atlanta University Center, the grounds of the state's top historically black colleges and universities. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King attended Morehouse College, one of the schools on the grounds.
"As Dr. King said, the battle is in our hands, and today the battle is in the hands of the leaders of the American people," Harris said.
Harris said the federal measures would protect the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act will restore all of the protections under the 1965 act, which protects voting from discrimination.
The Freedom to Vote Act would create a national standard for voting access, including early voting periods, mail-in voting and accommodations for people with disabilities. The measure also expands the guidelines for what identification would be sufficient to vote. The bill would allow same-day voter registration and automatic voter registration. It also would restore felons' voting rights and includes redistricting and campaign financing reforms.
Biden slammed parts of Georgia's bill that give the state the right to take over local election offices and gives the General Assembly the power to elect a chair of the State Election Board. He also criticized a provision prohibiting giveaways of food and drink within 150 feet of a polling place or 25 feet of voters standing in line.
The president also urged the Senate to change its filibuster rules to push forward the bill.
Raffensperger said the federal government should implement a national voter identification requirement and ballot harvesting ban. He also is calling for a federal constitutional amendment to block noncitizen voting and for the federal government to shorten the blackout period for elections officials to conduct voter roll maintenance before an election.
"I am calling on Congress to take steps to strengthen our elections systems and restore the confidence that decades of stolen election claims have stolen from our elections infrastructure," Raffensperger said during a Tuesday morning press conference.