White House says Biden is concerned about new Georgia election law

March 26, 2021 2:08 PM EDT

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By Steve Holland and Trevor Hunnicutt

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Joe Biden is "worried" about a set of sweeping new voting restrictions approved in the state of Georgia, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday.

The Democratic president is concerned that the new law signed on Thursday by Republican Governor Brian Kemp would prevent people from bringing water to voters in line, reduce open hours at polling locations and restrict the use of absentee ballots, she said.

"There's nothing more precious than the right to vote and speak up," Psaki told reporters, adding that she expected Biden to soon make a statement on the issue himself.

"It should not be harder - it should be easier to vote. We should not put limitations in place. People should be able to vote from home. They should be able to use absentee ballots. There should be a range of restrictions that are undone, not put back in place."

She also voiced support for efforts by congressional Democrats to pass federal voting rights and election reform legislation. Such efforts have already run into strong Republican opposition.

Georgia's new law will impose new limits, including stricter identification requirements, limiting drop boxes, giving lawmakers the power to take over local elections and shortening the early voting period for all runoff elections. Offering food and water to voters waiting in line will now be considered a misdemeanor crime.

Kemp said he offered no apology for "taking another step to making our elections fair and secure" but opponents describe the law as among the country's most damaging attempts to limit access to the ballot box and designed to reduce the influence of Black voters.

A Black Georgia state representative, Park Cannon, was arrested and released after knocking on the door to Kemp's office as he signed the law. Psaki said anyone who saw a video of the arrest would be "deeply concerned" by the actions of law enforcement.

Democrats just months ago celebrated historic wins in the presidential election and two Senate campaigns in Georgia that helped deliver the White House and U.S. Senate control to their party in Washington. Biden was the first Democratic presidential candidate to win Georgia since 1992.

Other Republican-controlled state legislatures are pursuing voting restrictions in key battleground states, including Florida and Arizona, after former Republican President Donald Trump blamed his loss to Biden on unproven allegations of massive voter fraud.

(Reporting by Steve Holland and Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Aurora Ellis)



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