Speed Reads

Voting Rights

Georgia police arrest Black lawmaker for knocking as Gov. Brian Kemp signed new voting restrictions

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed into law a new measure to restrict voting access in the state, shortly after the Republican-led legislature passed it along party lines. Georgia voted for President Biden in November, then elected two Democrats to the U.S. Senate in a January runoff election. "After the November election last year, I knew, like so many of you, that significant reforms to our state elections were needed," Kemp said. The Atlantic's Adam Serwer had an alternate explanation.

The new law makes it harder to request and drop off absentee ballots, changes early voting hours, replaces the elected secretary of state as head of the state election board with an appointee of the legislature, and gives that board the power to remove and replace county election officials. "That provision is widely seen as something that could be used to target Fulton County, a Democratic stronghold covering most of Atlanta," The Associated Press reports. The law also "bars outside groups from handing out food or water to people in line to vote."

"As always, the burden of these changes falls most heavily on voters of color — those the Voting Rights Act was designed to protect," Andrea Young, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia, said in a statement.

As Kemp was signing the law behind closed doors, state Rep. Park Cannon (D) was arrested by Capitol police for knocking. Cannon, a Black woman who represents Atlanta, was charged with felony obstruction of law enforcement and disrupting a session of the General Assembly. She faces 1 to 5 years in prison if convicted, AP reports.

Cannon "was advised that she was disturbing what was going on inside and if she did not stop, she would be placed under arrest," George State Police spokesman Lt. W. Mark Riley said. "Rep. Cannon refused to stop knocking on the door."

Tamara Stevens, an activist who was with Cannon, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Cannon was not being disruptive or disrespectful. "She knew he was signing a bill that would affect all Georgians — why would he hide behind closed doors?" Stevens said. "This isn't a monarchy." Peter Weber