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Democrats point to Georgia in push for new elections law

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats are spotlighting Georgia as they build their case for a broad overhaul of U.S. election law, arguing the new voting rules in the state are emblematic of Republican measures across the country that threaten access to the polls.

A Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday — which Democrats provocatively titled “Jim Crow 2021: The Latest Assault on the Right to Vote” — featured testimony from Georgia officials, including voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams, a former Georgia state legislator who narrowly lost a bid for governor in 2018. Abrams said parts of the sweeping new Georgia law are intended to suppress minority votes. She said federal legislation to strike down hurdles to voting is “essential to the protection of democracy.”

Georgia state Rep. Jan Jones, the No. 2 Republican in the legislature, defended her state’s laws at the hearing. She said the measures put in place in response to the 2020 election make it “easier to vote and harder to cheat.” Georgia Republicans have said the changes were in response to a lack of confidence in Georgia election systems, despite the fact that there were no major problems reported in the 2020 election. President Joe Biden’s electoral victory in the state was confirmed by three separate counts of the vote.

The hearing on Georgia’s new election rules comes as Senate Democrats are working to keep attention on their own sweeping voting legislation while they try to figure out how to pass it in the 50-50 Senate. They would need 60 votes to move forward, and all Republicans have strongly objected to the bill. They argue it would strip power from the states, fundamentally alter how elections are conducted and cement an unfair political advantage for Democrats.

Democrats say the Senate bill, a version of which has already passed the House, would enable all voters easy access to the polls and thwart Republican efforts to enact new voting restrictions in GOP-led states like Georgia, Arizona, Florida and Texas. Like the House-passed legislation, the Senate bill would create automatic voter registration nationwide, promote early voting, require more disclosure from political donors and restrict partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts, among other changes.

A separate Democratic bill honoring the late Georgia Rep. John Lewis would aim to better protect voting rights in places with a history of discrimination.

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