The Biden administration is suing the state of Georgia over its recently passed election reforms, alleging that the state is racially discriminating against black Americans by suppressing their right to vote.
"Today, the Department of Justice is suing the state of Georgia. Our complaint alleges that recent changes to Georgia's election laws were enacted with the purpose of denying or abridging the right of black Georgians to vote on account of their race or color," Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a press conference Friday.
Georgia's election reforms, signed into law by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in March, implement stronger voter ID requirements, expand early voting throughout most of the state, require that counties have at least one absentee ballot drop box, and grant the state legislature more control over election administration.
Democrats have made several false claims about the bill, accusing Georgia Republicans of implementing "Jim Crow 2.0" in their state to squash the minority vote and stay in power.
Biden's Department of Justice contends that portions of the law "were adopted with the purpose of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race." The lawsuit alleges that Georgia lawmakers knew their law would have a cumulative and discriminatory effect on black voters and adopted the law anyway.
Specific provisions of the Georgia law challenged by the DOJ include a provision banning government entities from distributing unsolicited absentee ballot applications; the imposition of fines on civic organizations, churches, and advocacy groups that distribute follow-up absentee ballot applications; the shortening of the deadline to request absentee ballots to 11 days before Election Day; the prohibition on using the last four digits of an voter's Social Security number as a substitute for photo identification issued by the Georgia Department of Driver Services or a photocopy of valid photo ID; changes to rules regarding absentee ballot drop boxes; the prohibition on activists and campaigns from providing food or water to persons waiting in long lines to vote; and the prohibition on counting out-of-precinct provisional ballots cast before 5 p.m. on Election Day.
Appearing at the press conference with Garland, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, the head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, claimed Georgia lawmakers passed SB 202 through a "rushed process" that bypassed normal legislative procedure. She said the law contained "new and unnecessarily stringent identification requirements to obtain an absentee ballot," noting that black Americans vote absentee in greater proportions than whites and are disproportionally affected by the law. Clarke also criticized provisions of the law that would disqualify provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct and said black voters were also more likely to face long lines when forced to vote at polling stations.
"It's well documented that communities of color change residences more frequently than other populations," she said. "And because of this greater residential mobility and polling site closures and consolidations, Black voters are more likely to end up at the wrong precinct on Election Day."
Responding on Twitter, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp accused the Biden administration of spreading "lies and misinformation" about the law and "weaponizing the U.S. Department of Justice."
"This lawsuit is born out of the lies and misinformation the Biden administration has pushed against Georgia's Election Integrity Act from the start. Joe Biden, Stacey Abrams, and their allies tried to force an unconstitutional elections power grab through Congress — and failed," the governor said. "Now, they are weaponizing the U.S. Department of Justice to carry out their far-left agenda that undermines election integrity and empowers federal government overreach in our democracy.
"As Secretary of State, I fought the Obama Justice Department twice to protect the security of our elections — and won. I look forward to going three for three to ensure it's easy to vote and hard to cheat in Georgia."