Griffin ConnollyThu, 25 March 2021, 6:54 pm GMT
Joe Biden lit into Republicans who are working on a raft of bills to make voting more onerous for people in their states.
“What I’m worried about is how un-American this whole initiative is. It’s sick. It’s sick,” the president said on Thursday at his first formal press conference since taking office 64 days ago.
“Deciding, in some states, that you cannot bring water to people standing in line waiting to vote? Deciding that you’re going to end voting at five o’clock when working people are just getting off work? Deciding that there will be no absentee ballots except under the most rigid circumstances?” Mr Biden said, rattling off a number of proposals from GOP state leaders that would limit voting options for people.
Citing the threat of widespread voter fraud, Republicans have offered hundreds of bills since the 2020 election to restrict voting hours, roll back early in-person and absentee voting, eliminate certain mail-in voting opportunities, and limit the number of drop off boxes throughout jurisdictions for people to turn in their ballots, among many others.
State election officials from 2020 as well as the Justice Department and FBI have all said there was no evidence of significant election fraud last November. And many of the bills offered by Republican state politicians to curtail voting opportunities — cutting down on early voting hours and limiting locations to turn in ballots, for instance — do not appear to do anything to combat election fraud.
“Republican voters I know find this despicable. Republican voters — folks outside this White House. I’m not talking about the elected officials, I’m talking about voters, voters,” Mr Biden said on Thursday.
Republican elected officials in 43 states have introduced more than 250 bills restricting voting rights, a localised effort across the nation that has been propelled by spurious claims of voting “irregularities” in 2020 and Donald Trump’s loss in the presidential race.
Those restrictive voting laws are already beginning to hit the books:
Georgia’s House of Representatives passed a package on Thursday that will fundamentally change the way it runs its elections, transferring power away from nonpartisan officials and into the hands of the state’s legislative majorities — both of which are currently in GOP hands.
The bill, which is likely to be passed in the state Senate next week, reduces the number of places where people can vote and makes it a criminal offence to provide food and water to people waiting in voting lines.
The new package would reduce early voting hours and the number of ballot drop off boxes. And it would add new voter ID requirements for people who choose to vote by mail.
At the federal level, Democrats in Congress are working on expansive legislation that would standardise voting access at ballots in every state and territory, eliminate long-standing barriers to voting and allow candidates with smaller platforms to wield more political power, among other provisions.
The Democrats’ so-called For the People Act would effectively nullify and supercede any repressive state-level laws.
“This is gigantic what they’re trying to do, and it cannot be sustained,” Mr Biden said on Thursday. “I’ll do everything in my power along with my friends in the House and the Senate to keep [GOP state-level measures] from becoming the law.”
The For the People Act passed the House as HR1 earlier this month on a party-line vote but faces stiff opposition from Senate Republicans.
That poses a problem for Democrats, who under current Senate rules need at least 10 GOP senators to join them in support of the bill to clear the chamber’s 60-vote threshold for legislation.
Mr Biden told reporters on Thursday he has a strategy to protect voting opportunities, but that he would not reveal it for the “whole world” to see at his press conference.
“I’m convinced that we’ll be able to stop this because it is the most pernicious thing,” he said.
“This makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle.”