Gov. Brian Kemp quickly signed a vast rewrite of Georgia’s election rules into law Thursday, imposing voter ID requirements, limiting drop boxes and allowing state takeovers of local elections after last year’s close presidential race.
Kemp finalized the bill just over an hour after it cleared the General Assembly, leaving no doubt about its fate amid public pressure against voting restrictions.
Republican lawmakers pushed the legislation through both the House and Senate over the objections of Democratic lawmakers. The legislation passed along party lines in both chambers, with votes of 34-20 in the Senate and 100-75 in the House.
Protesters outside the Capitol said the bill will disenfranchise voters, calling it “Jim Crow 2.0.” State Rep. Park Cannon, D-Atlanta, was arrested by state troopers after knocking on Kemp’s office door to try to witness the bill signing. The governor briefly interrupted his prepared remarks as Cannon was forcibly removed from the building by officers.
Supporters of the measure, Senate Bill 202, said it will protect election integrity.
“Significant reforms to our state elections were needed. 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 in the ballot box here in Georgia,” Kemp said after signing the bill.
Several voting organizations filed a federal lawsuit to stop the bill Thursday night, saying it creates “unjustifiable burdens” especially on minority, young, poor and disabled voters. The lawsuit by The New Georgia Project, Black Voters Matter and Rise opposes absentee ID requirements, drop box limits, provisional ballot invalidations, and food and drink bans.
Outside the Statehouse in Atlanta on Thursday, a coalition of Black faith leaders assembled a protest, voicing their opposition to the bill and calling for a boycott of major corporations in Georgia that they said had remained silent on the voting push, including Coca-Cola.
The faith leaders also sought a meeting with Mr. Kemp and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, also a Republican. Mr. Duncan met with the group for three minutes; Mr. Kemp did not.
“I told him exactly how I felt: that these bills were not only voter suppression, but they were in fact racist, and they are an attempt to turn back time to Jim Crow,” said Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, who oversees all African Methodist Episcopal churches in the state