President Joe Biden on Thursday slammed a slew of Republican efforts to suppress the vote as “un-American” as Georgia’s state House and Senate passed a sweeping bill that would vastly limit access to the ballot.
The President, in his first formal news conference since taking office, criticized Republican efforts in multiple states to make it more difficult to vote before and on Election Day. The measures were introduced following former President Donald Trump’s lies about a stolen election last November, a strategy Biden described as the “most pernicious thing.”
“What I’m worried about is how un-American this whole initiative is. It’s sick. It’s sick,” Biden said.
The President argued that even Republican voters find measures being adopted in many states, including Texas and Arizona as well as Georgia, unacceptable and “despicable.”
“I’m not talking about the election officials – I’m talking about voters. Voters,” Biden said in an impassioned reply to a question about the voting rights issue.
The President said that he was trying to figure out how to pass a massive voting rights bill sent to the US Senate by the House. Several Democrats have expressed disquiet about parts of the bill, which Republicans have branded as an unconstitutional power grab by congressional Democrats.
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Biden said that he believed current laws being introduced by Republican state legislators to limit voting access and hours were worse than the Jim Crow-era laws that institutionalized racism.
Amid questions about whether he will eventually relent in his opposition to abolishing the Senate filibuster, which requires 60 votes for major legislation and would make passing the voting rights bill impossible, Biden said he had a plan but would not reveal what it was.
“I’m not going to lay out a strategy in front of the whole world and you now,” Biden told reporters.
After Biden spoke, the Republican-led Georgia Senate approved the version of a sweeping election overhaul bill that the GOP-led House had passed earlier in the day. The legislation then headed to GOP Gov. Brian Kemp, who signed it Thursday evening, enacting faster-than-expected changes that would restrict voter access in a state that was pivotal in giving Democrats control of the White House and US Senate this year.
The legislation would limit ballot drop boxes to inside early voting locations during voting hours, make giving food or drinks to a voter a misdemeanor, allow for unlimited challenges to voter registrations and eligibility, and grant state officials broad rights, including the ability to replace local election officials. It would also shorten the runoff cycle from the current nine weeks to just four weeks and remove the elected secretary of state as chair of the state election board.
By late Thursday, three voting rights groups had already filed a suit challenging the new law.
Texas, Arizona and a clutch of others states are moving to curtail voting access – especially in big cities disproportionately favorable to Democrats.
This story has been updated with Georgia’s governor signing the bill and a lawsuit being filed to challenge it.
CNN’s Maegan Vazquez contributed to this report.