WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Thursday in his first formal news conference since taking office blasted Republican-controlled state legislatures that are seeking to restrict voting access, labeling those attempts “sick” and “un-American.”
Biden specifically referenced proposals like one in Georgia’s state Capitol, where the House and Senate on Thursday approved a GOP-drafted bill that would overhaul early and absentee voting laws, restrict access to ballot drop boxes, and even criminalize handing out water and snacks to voters as they wait in line. The governor signed the measure Thursday night and most of its provisions go into effect on July 1.
“This makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle,” Biden said, referring to laws that enforced racial segregation in the South. “This is gigantic, what they’re trying to do, and it cannot be sustained.”
Biden said he would “do everything in my power” to prevent those changes from going into effect.
He pledged to help the U.S. Senate to pass a sweeping elections bill drafted by Democrats, which would expand voting rights and block some of the actions underway in GOP state legislatures. That bill, known as H.R. 1, passed the House in early March, but it faces an uphill battle in the evenly divided Senate, where it would need some Republican support to win approval.
Asked if there’s anything he can do beyond passing legislation like H.R. 1 to block the state-level proposals that would limit voting access, Biden replied: “The answer is yes but I’m not going to lay out a strategy in front of you and the whole world now.”
Biden said he would work on educating the American public about the proposals being shepherded through state legislatures, saying the Republicans he knows “find this despicable.”
Georgia has been the epicenter for GOP efforts to rein in voting access after finding itself in the national spotlight following last year’s presidential election, when former President Donald Trump made baseless claims of election irregularities and fraud. Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office took a high-profile stand in defense of Georgia’s election integrity after Biden won Georgia by 12,000 votes in November.
But Georgia is far from the only state seeking to tighten voting rules, raising the concerns of voting-rights advocates across the country: Arizona lawmakers are weighing measures that would purge the early voting list of people who don’t use their early ballots for two consecutive election cycles, and would require people who vote by early ballot to include proof of identification beyond the current signature system.