Politics Fact check: Biden and Kemp misleadingly describe parts of Georgia elections law
Attorney for Georgia lawmaker calls charges 'overreach'
ATLANTA (AP) — An attorney for a Georgia lawmaker who was charged with two felonies after knocking on the door to the governor's private office said authorities overreached in the case, which unfolded while the governor spoke on live television about a sweeping overhaul of state elections. State police arrested state Rep. Park Cannon, an Atlanta Democrat, on Thursday after she said she wanted to see Republican Gov. Brian Kemp sign the law that places new restrictions on voting by mail and gives lawmakers more power to oversee elections. © Provided by Associated Press State Rep.
There are a lot of misleading claims being made about Georgia's controversial elections law.
And some of them are coming from the top.
Both, a Democrat who opposes the law, and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, the Republican who signed it last week, misleadingly described the text of the law in interviews this week.
Here is a breakdown of a Biden assertion and three Kemp assertions.
Early voting hours
While criticizing the Georgia law in a Wednesday interview on ESPN, Biden, "You're going to close a polling place at 5 o'clock when working people just get off? This is all about keeping workin' folks and ordinary folks that I grew up with from being able to vote."
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp Signed 'Jim Crow' Bill Under a Slave Plantation Picture
The controversial new law has been widely criticized with President Joe Biden also weighing in on the issue.Kemp is now facing further controversy after it emerged he had apparently signed the new bill while sitting under a painting of a former slave plantation. Will Bunch, national opinion columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer made the connection first.
Facts First: This is misleading for two reasons. First, the new law does not change Georgia's Election Day voting hours, which still. Second, while the law does set a default end time of 5 p.m. for early voting on weekdays and on Saturdays, counties were already allowed to end early voting at 5 p.m. under the previous law. The new law gives counties the option to offer early voting as late as 7 p.m. if they want to.
Thesaid weekday early voting had to occur at least during "normal business hours," with a county option to add additional hours. That previous law did not explain what hours qualified as "normal." The does specify, saying that weekday early voting has to occur during the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. That's not a reduction in hours, just an elimination of vagueness. And the new law goes on to say that counties can choose to extend early voting to as early as 7 a.m. and as late as 7 p.m.
Gov. Brian Kemp says there's 'nothing Jim Crow' about new voting law
Gov. Brian Kemp said that there's 'nothing Jim Crow' about Georgia's new voting law and blasted Joe Biden and 'his handlers' for not having read it after the president accused it of being 'un-American.'Kemp had signed an 'election integrity' bill into law on Thursday that Biden had blasted in a statement from the White House as 'Jim Crow in the 21st Century' while urging Congress to pass national voting acts favored by Democrats.
The new law also says that early voting has to be open at least between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on two Saturdays during primary elections and general elections. (Additional weekend days are optional.) That's an increase in mandatory weekend hours, which required only one Saturday of early voting from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. And the new law says counties can go from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekends if they want to.
Atlanta'sand some Democratic-dominated counties did not have early voting hours later than 7 p.m. , so the law would not force them into reductions in hours in primaries and general elections. (For runoff elections, the law two weeks of mandatory early voting statewide and eliminates five weeks of the campaign in total.)
At the White House press briefing on Thursday, press secretary Jen Psaki defended Biden's claim about Georgia polls being closed at 5 p.m. -- versions of which he had-- by saying that the new law "standardizes the ending of voting every day at 5." But Psaki then conceded that the law "gives options to expand" beyond 5 p.m.
Democrats dispute police report in Georgia lawmaker's arrest
ATLANTA (AP) — Allies of a Democratic lawmaker arrested last week during a protest of Georgia's new Republican-backed election law are strongly pushing back on a police report that compares the lawmaker knocking on the door of the governor's office to the violent storming of the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob in January. Democratic Rep. Park Cannon was arrested Thursday after she said she wanted to see GOP Gov. Brian Kemp sign the legislation, which adds new restrictions on mail voting, into law. Cannon was charged with obstruction of law enforcement and disruption of the General Assembly and was released from jail later that evening.
There is one caveat here. Even experts on election law told us the wording of the new law is confusing about weekday early voting hours in particular. (You can read the wording for yourself on.) But Kemp's press secretary, Mallory Blount, told CNN that the law says 7 am to 7 pm weekday voting is allowed; the office of the secretary of state, Republican Brad Raffensperger, told CNN its lawyers interpret the provision the same way; University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock said this is how he reads it as well; and University of Kentucky law professor Joshua Douglas, an , said that although the wording is open to different readings, the "stronger reading" is that it allows weekday extensions to 7 am and 7 p.m.
However, Rick Hasen, a professor and election law expert at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, said that because the weekday language is "not crystal clear," he worries that there could be litigation if counties decide to go later than 5 p.m. But he said he is pleased Georgia leaders are supporting the broader interpretation.
Fact check: What the new Georgia elections law actually does
The new Georgia elections law signed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp last week has prompted lawsuits from civil rights groups, a sharp denunciation from President Joe Biden, and calls for businesses to take action against the state. © Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/AP Ann White of Roswell holds protest signs on the North Wing stairs of the Georgia State Capitol building on day 38 of the legislative session in Atlanta, Thursday, March 25, 2021. "It ain't over yet," said White. "I look forward to going door-to-door working against everybody that voted for (SB 202).
The food and water provision
In a Mondaywith Breitbart News, Kemp rejected criticism of a provision of the law that imposes restrictions on handing voters food and drink. (Some voters faced in Georgia's June 2020 primaries and during the in October 2020.) Among other things, he said: "It just keeps, you know, the NRA or Sierra Club or whatever special interest group -- people that are running for office -- from handing out food or water in the line, so it's not as outrageous as people are making it out to be."
In a Wednesdayon CNBC, Kemp made an additional claim about the provision. He said that not only can voters bring their own food and water but that "people can serve and hand out bottles of water and food as long as they're outside the 150-foot boundary of a polling location."
Facts First: Both claims are misleading. While the law does say people can't hand out or offer money or gifts, including food and drink, to voters within 150 feet of a polling location, it also says people can't do so "within 25 feet of any voter standing in line to vote" -- in other words, even if the voters are farther than 150 feet from the building. And the restriction on handing out food and water does not "just" cover special interest groups and people running for office. The provision says that "any person" -- not just a person engaged in electioneering -- is forbidden from giving or offering voters money or gifts, including food and drink, within 150 feet of a polling place, within 25 feet of voters in line, or inside the polling place.
Yes, the Georgia election law is that bad
The debate over whether Georgia’s law really suppresses voting reveals just how imperiled American democracy is.In the New York Times, Nate Cohn concluded that “the law’s voting provisions are unlikely to significantly affect turnout or Democratic chances.” Slate’s Will Saletan notes that some provisions really are troubling, but that the bill also contains good provisions and that critics have “overhyped” their concerns. Brian Riedl, a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute, writes that “the idea this is an epic war on voting rights is simply absurd.
The restriction on giving out food and drink is contained in the same paragraph as a provision restricting campaign activity, such as soliciting votes and distributing campaign material, in the vicinity of voting locations. But the food and drink provision does not only cover campaigners.
Kemp was correct when he said in both interviews that the law permits county officials to provide water to voters. The law says staff can set out "self-service water from an unattended receptacle."
Speaking to both Breitbart News and CNBC, Kemp suggested it is inaccurate to say that Georgia is taking away ballot drop boxes. He explained that the law imposes a legislative requirement for every county to have a drop box, while in 2020, drop boxes were optional and only permitted under afrom the state elections board.
To Breitbart, Kemp criticized media coverage that made it seem like "we're just loading them all up in a truck and gonna junk 'em." He said that "drop boxes were never even allowed in our state before this  election, and the only reason they were done this election was because of a public health state of emergency ... what we're doing is we're putting that into the law."
To CNBC, Kemp said, "Once the public health state of emergency goes away, the drop box would have gone away with them." He added, "People act like we're taking something away -- it never existed until the pandemic, it was done by emergency rule, not by legislative action."
Facts First: Kemp's claim is misleading because of another significant omission. Even when pressed by CNBC, he did not acknowledge that the law imposes strict limits on the number of drop boxes per county -- which will force some counties to make available far fewer drop boxes than they made available in 2020. Fulton County, for example,it would have to go from 38 drop boxes in the November election to eight.
Kemp is correct that the law cements drop boxes in actual legislation rather than making them reliant on the temporary pandemic order. He is also correct that the new law requires each county to have at least one drop box. But his argument is incomplete at best when he declines to explain that some counties will be forbidden from using the majority of the drop boxes they put out last year. A reduction from 38 boxes under a temporary rule to eight boxes under a permanent law is still a reduction.
The law says counties must have one drop box. But it adds that, if they want additional boxes, they can have one for every 100,000 active registered voters in the county or one for every advance voting location in the county, whichever number is smaller.
The law also shortens the hours drop boxes are available. Under the pandemic rule, drop boxes could be located outside, open 24 hours a day, and open. Under the law, the boxes must be located at elections offices or inside early voting locations and can only be available during the hours that early voting is available -- again, a maximum of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and only on certain days. (If the governor declares an emergency, the boxes can be placed outdoors.)
How Georgia's new voting law compares to other states .
Georgia's new voting law has sparked outrage from Democrats and even been called "Jim Crow on steroids" by President Joe Biden, but many of its provisions have governed elections in other states across the country for years. From voter ID requirements to ballot drop boxes, and early voting schedules to absentee ballot access, there is little new or unique in the freshly minted Georgia rules. In fact, many of the measures critics are attacking have long been in place in blue states, including Biden's home state of Delaware.