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Biden’s misleading “Jim Crow” attacks on Georgia’s election laws and what they mean for North Carolina

President Joe Biden attacked the recently passed election reforms in Georgia, calling them “Jim Crow in the 21st Century.”

Hans A. von Spakovsky at the Heritage Foundation has countered such rhetoric by, and this might shock some commentators, actually examining what is in the bill. Here is what he found on the ID provision:

Let’s take a look at the first provision, which requires voters to provide an ID to receive an absentee ballot. Georgia has had a law in place since the 2008 presidential election that requires a voter to show a government-issued, photo ID when he or she votes in-person. When a federal judge threw out the lawsuit against the law in 2007 (amid similar “Jim Crow” comparisons), he specifically noted that in two years of litigation, the challengers could not produce a single resident of the state who would be unable to vote because of the new ID requirement.

Georgia provides a free photo ID to anyone who doesn’t already have one. We have more than a decade’s worth of Georgia’s turnout data in election after election that graphically shows that the ID provision does not prevent anyone—including minorities—from voting. Simply extending the ID requirement to absentee ballots is a much-needed, common-sense reform that voters support.

But what does the provision actually say? Section 25 of the bill doesn’t even require voters to provide a photocopy of their ID. Instead, the voter can simply write “the number of his or her Georgia driver’s license or identification card” on the application for the absentee ballot.

Moreover, if the voter doesn’t have such a Georgia ID card, she can “provide a copy of a form of identification listed” in another code section of Georgia law (§ 21-2-417(c)). And what does that code section say? That you can satisfy the ID requirement with a “copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows the name and address of such elector.”

Now where do you think the Georgia legislature got that language? They got it from federal law, the Help America Vote Act of 2002. Section 303(b) of this law (codified at 52 U.S.C. § 21083) requires an individual who registered to vote by mail and who is voting for the first time in a federal election (whether in person or by mail)  to instead provide “a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that show the name and address of the voter” if he doesn’t have a “current and valid photo identification.”

Attacks on the voter ID provision of Georgia’s election law are of concern to North Carolinians because there have been similar attacks on North Carolina’s voter ID law. We can also expect similar lines of attack on a modest election reform bill working its way through the General Assembly.

President Biden grew up and lived his early adulthood in the Jim Crow era, so it is hard to believe that his mischaracterizing of Georgia’s election law is being done out of ignorance. More likely, it is an attempt to mislead about the law born out of political calculation, especially since Americans are supportive of voting integrity measures. Indeed, in the same statement that Biden attacked Georgia’s election law, he also called for the passage of HR1/R1 by Congres, a bill that would weaken election security nationwide.

Andy Jackson / Director of the Civitas Center for Public Integrity | John Locke Foundation