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Biden to promote two key minority voting rights bills in Georgia

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A woman holds a sticker reading "I voted" during an election in California in September 2021./AFP
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Jan 11, 2022 - 06:19 AM

WASHINGTON — US President Joe Biden will travel to Georgia on Tuesday to rally public support for two bills aimed at protecting minority voting rights, which he accuses Republicans of endangering.

Here are the main elements of the legislation under debate in the US Senate.

Public holiday, right to snack 

Backed by Democrats, the Freedom to Vote Act makes election day a public holiday, expands voting by mail, and allows same-day voter registration.

The bill also expands the list of identification documents that can be presented at polling stations when voting, a measure criticized by Republicans who believe it may facilitate fraud.

And it rescinds some of the restrictions passed in several Republican-led states since Donald Trump’s defeat in the 2020 presidential election.

In particular, the legislation takes aim at a law passed in Georgia last year, which prevents the distribution of drinks or snacks to citizens lining up to vote.

Activists say the measure may discourage voting in this southern state, after some voters had to wait more than 10 hours in humid heat to cast their ballots in the 2020 election.

Activists also argue the law is particularly discriminatory against African-Americans, who often live in neighborhoods with fewer polling stations and who overwhelmingly voted for Biden.

Prevent discrimination 

The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, named after famed American civil rights activist and congressman John Lewis, is another measure aimed at boosting minority voting rights.

The bill prohibits adoption of legislation that would result in discriminatory voting practices, even if they are not overt or intentional.

It restores key provisions of the Voting Rights Advancement Act, a landmark voting rights law that was passed in 1965 during the civil rights movement but was significantly watered down by the Supreme Court in recent years.

In Georgia, Biden will seek to promote the two bills, which have already passed the House of Representatives and are expected to be voted on in the Senate this week, according to Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer.

But the Democratic majority in the Senate is far too narrow for Schumer to be able to push the bill through and he has threatened to initiate a major procedural reform in the upper chamber in a bid to force Republicans to cooperate.

So far, only one Republican senator, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, has spoken in favor of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. The Freedom to Vote Act has no supporters among Republican Senators.

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