ATLANTA (AP) - The government of Georgia, Brian Kemp, staged a series of protests on Thursday as it signed into law a threat to Republican-sponsored national elections, including new postal voting rules and strict rules on how elections should be conducted.
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Democrats and rights activists say the law will unfairly deprive voters of their right to a fair vote. It is one of the rewards for GOP-supported elections introduced in provinces across the country after former President Donald Trump filed false allegations that fraud led to his defeat in the 2020 elections.
President Joe Biden called such GOP efforts "non-American" and "sick" during a press conference on Thursday. And a group of voter mobilization groups filed a lawsuit in court on Thursday near the end of an Atlanta court challenging the new law.
Republican reforms in Georgia's voting law follow the record-breaking process that led to Democrats' victory in the presidential race and the double run of the U.S. Senate in a situation that was honestly red.
"After the November election last year, I knew, like many of you, that big changes were needed in our national election," said Kemp, who reiterated Trump's anger after securing Biden's victory in Georgia.
Kemp signed the bill less than two hours after he dissolved the Georgia General Assembly. State House approved 100-75, before the state Senate immediately approved the amendment of the House, 34-20. Republicans support it, and Democrats oppose it.
At his first press conference, Biden strongly criticized Republican measures to reduce voting rights and pledged to do all he could with his colleagues to stop the effort.
“The voters of the Republic I know find these despised people, the voters of the Republic, people outside the White House. I'm not talking about the elected officials. I'm talking about voters. Said Biden.
In Georgia, Democratic State Senate Leader Gloria Butler has called the Republican efforts "conspiracy to oppress voters."
"We are currently seeing a massive attack on and disregard for voting rights unlike anything we have seen since the time of Jim Crow," Butler said.
While Kemp was delivering his remarks he was interrupted by a commotion before the event was broadcast.
Democratic Republic Attorney Park Cannon, a black man, was arrested by Capitol police during a protest after knocking on the door of the governor's office.
A video posted by an eyewitness shows Cannon, handcuffed with his hands and arms behind his back, forcibly removed from the Capitol by two police officers, one on each arm. "Where are you taking me?" and "stand" as it is taken from the building.
Cannon has been charged with felony criminal mischief, sentenced to one or five years in prison, and obstruction of justice. He was released Thursday night.
It was not immediately clear if Cannon had a lawyer to comment.
Georgia law requires a photo ID to vote non-postal, after more than 1.3 million voters used that period during the COVID-19 epidemic. It also reduces the amount of time people have to apply for non-voting and the limits on which ballot boxes can be placed and when they can be accessed.
Democratic Rep. Rhonda Burnough said the bill was based on lies told by Republicans after the November election.
"The people of Georgia came out with record numbers because they were able to get a vote," Burnough said. "There have been false lies about our election, so now this constitution before us is built on those lies."
Republican Attorney Jan Jones said the time-consuming provisions for people to request a non-voting vote were not intended to "increase the chances of a successful voter vote," after concerns were raised about postal ballots.
One of the major changes gives the GOP-led legislature more control over election administration. That raised alarms about the huge impact of engagement.
The law replaces the state secretary elected as chairman of the state electoral board with a new nominee in the legislature after Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger rejected Trump's efforts to alter Georgia's election results. It also allows the board to remove and replace regional electoral officers who are considered ineffective.
That offer is widely seen as something that could be used to identify Fulton County, a Democratic refugee camp covering most of Atlanta, which was destroyed after long queues that plagued the summer elections.
Republican attorney Barry Fleming, who is driving the law, said the provision would only be "temporary remediation, that is, that would end and control would be restored to its people after problems were resolved."
The law also reduces the time limit for holding a by-election, including the number of pre-election votes in the runoffs. It also prevents foreign parties from providing food or water to people in the voting line.
The law does not contain any other controversial proposals that have floated around the Republicans in the past, including early voting restrictions on Sundays, a popular day for black churchgoers to vote at "soul" events. Instead it authorizes two voting Saturdays ahead of the general election, when only one is compulsory, leaving two Sundays as an election.