‘This is Jim Crow’: Biden blasts new Georgia law restricting voting, suggests DOJ could get involved

President Biden took blistering aim Friday at Georgia Republicans and suggested they could face Justice Department scrutiny for enacting an “outrageous” law that places “Jim Crow”-like restrictions on voting in the critical swing state.

The law, which was signed into law by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Thursday, curtails voting hours and restricts absentee ballot access in ways that could effectively deny the right to vote for many — provisions that will impact African-Americans in the state particularly hard, Biden said.

“This is Jim Crow in the 21st Century. It must end,” Biden said in a statement. “We have a moral and Constitutional obligation to act.”

FILE - In this Nov. 4, 2020, file photo, an election worker holds a ballot as vote counting in the general election continues at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. President-elect Joe Biden won in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia because of Black voters, many of them concentrated in big cities.
FILE - In this Nov. 4, 2020, file photo, an election worker holds a ballot as vote counting in the general election continues at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. President-elect Joe Biden won in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia because of Black voters, many of them concentrated in big cities.


FILE - In this Nov. 4, 2020, file photo, an election worker holds a ballot as vote counting in the general election continues at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. President-elect Joe Biden won in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia because of Black voters, many of them concentrated in big cities. (Brynn Anderson/)

He reiterated his call for Congress to pass the “For the People Act,” which would codify a set of voting rights on a federal level, including requiring poll sites to stay open at least 10 hours per day and mandate automatic voter registration, among other initiatives to expand access.

But Biden also told reporters later in the day that Justice Department intervention could be warranted.

“We don’t know quite exactly what we can do at this point. The Justice Department’s taking a look as well,” he said. A Justice Department official said the agency is “aware of the law,” but declined further comment.

In addition to restricting ballot access and voting hours, the Georgia law makes it a crime to provide water or food to voters while they wait in line — a fact that made Biden especially angry.

“It’s an atrocity,” Biden told reporters. “They passed a law saying you can’t provide water for people standing in line while they’re waiting to vote. You don’t need anything else to know this is nothing but punitive, designed to keep people from voting.”

Rep. Alan Powell, R-Hartwell, speaks in favor of SB 202 during a debate on the bill in the House Chambers in a legislative session at the Georgia State Capitol Building in Atlanta, Thursday, March 25.
Rep. Alan Powell, R-Hartwell, speaks in favor of SB 202 during a debate on the bill in the House Chambers in a legislative session at the Georgia State Capitol Building in Atlanta, Thursday, March 25.


Rep. Alan Powell, R-Hartwell, speaks in favor of SB 202 during a debate on the bill in the House Chambers in a legislative session at the Georgia State Capitol Building in Atlanta, Thursday, March 25. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com/)

Georgia, which has historically been deeply red politically, flipped for Biden in the 2020 presidential election along with a handful of other battleground states in the Midwest and Southwest.

The enactment of the new Georgia law is part of a push by GOP lawmakers in those states to make it harder to vote — ostensibly to prevent the fraud and cheating that former President Trump falsely claimed caused the 2020 election to be stolen from him.

But despite his baseless insistence to the contrary, voter fraud is extremely rare and Trump has failed to produce any credible evidence that it was responsible for his loss.

Experts have noted that Republicans tend to perform better in elections when turnout is low, an explanation for the GOP campaign for more voting restrictions, Biden said.

“If you have the best ideas, you have nothing to hide,” Biden said. “Let the people vote.”