Biden: This Georgia election law is an "atrocity"

Surely you weren’t expecting subtlety on this subject from a guy who once told an African-American crowd that Mitt Romney wanted to “put y’all back in chains.”

That’d be the same Mitt Romney who just received a “Profile in Courage” award from the JFK Library Foundation for being such a decent guy on impeachment.

The messaging surrounding Georgia’s new law and the related battle over H.R. 1 will be demagogic and incendiary even by the low standards of our low era. Buckle up.

Here’s a BuzzFeed headline to illustrate my point, indistinguishable from a DNC press release:

Biden issued a separate statement this afternoon upping the rhetoric ante further:

Yet instead of celebrating the rights of all Georgians to vote or winning campaigns on the merits of their ideas, Republicans in the state instead rushed through an un-American law to deny people the right to vote. This law, like so many others being pursued by Republicans in statehouses across the country is a blatant attack on the Constitution and good conscience. Among the outrageous parts of this new state law, it ends voting hours early so working people can’t cast their vote after their shift is over. It adds rigid restrictions on casting absentee ballots that will effectively deny the right to vote to countless voters. And it makes it a crime to provide water to voters while they wait in line – lines Republican officials themselves have created by reducing the number of polling sites across the state, disproportionately in Black neighborhoods.

This is Jim Crow in the 21st Century. It must end. We have a moral and Constitutional obligation to act. I once again urge Congress to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to make it easier for all eligible Americans access the ballot box and prevent attacks on the sacred right to vote.

By “rigid restrictions” on absentee ballots, he means replacing signature verification with some sort of ID number, like a driver’s license. That will be an added obstacle for some voters but organizers will be looking for them early to help. And he’s right that the new law sets early-voting hours from 9 to 5, when people are working, but it gives counties leeway to extend those hours and permits early voting on weekends.

Does that amount to the “new Jim Crow”? Vice reporter Cameron Joseph has a balanced take on it below. It’s not an “atrocity” but I’ll repeat what I said this morning: The law is a solution in search of a problem, to borrow a phrase from Georgia’s lieutenant governor, and the provision banning activists from handing out food and drink to voters waiting in line is both petty and tremendously dumb politically. Dems will dine out on its mean-spiritedness for months. Still, the most dubious parts of the bill ended up in the trash, according to Joseph:

The worst part of the law is how it shifts authority over the State Election Board to the legislature, a move that’ll increase pressure on Republicans to overturn the results in 2024 if Democrats once again win the state narrowly. As for the rest, Dems were going to call it an “atrocity” no matter what, as that’s part of the persuasion effort being aimed at filibuster supporters Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. The plan is to call them both racists until they submit and agree to pass H.R. 1 with 50 votes somehow, whether by making a special exception to the filibuster rules or nuking them altogether. Big business will be strong-armed too to apply its own pressure to Democrats’ opponents. In fact, they’re already yielding:

The 91st MLB All-Star Game is scheduled to be played in Atlanta this July.

But on Thursday, in the wake of voting-restriction legislation signed into law by the Georgia governor, the executive director of the MLB Players Association said the players are ready to discuss moving their annual midsummer exhibition out of Georgia.

“Players are very much aware” of the Georgia voting bill, which places restrictions on voting that some believe will make it particularly difficult for Black voters to reach the polls, said Tony Clark in an interview with the Globe. “As it relates to the All-Star Game, we have not had a conversation with the league on that issue. If there is an opportunity to, we would look forward to having that conversation.”

The boycotts are coming. Kemp, the state legislature, and officials like Brad Raffensperger will have to stand firm regardless of the economic cost, as backing down in the teeth of a lefty pressure campaign would extinguish whatever remaining chance they have of being reelected after Trump’s harsh criticism of them. They were forced to tighten up the state’s election laws by the right’s depth of conviction that Georgia’s vote was rigged, even though it wasn’t, and now they’ll live with the consequences.