'They're coming for you next': Kemp vows to fight elections law challenge
ATLANTA - Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has a strong message to other states about the federal lawsuit over Georgia's new election law.
Speaking on Fox News, Kemp described the actions surrounding the elections law as part of a "radical agenda" that is being "weaponized" by the Biden Administration and former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.
"They're coming for you next. That's been my message to the rest of the country," Kemp said. "They're coming for your state, your elections bill, your ballgame. They're going to cancel your small business."
The governor's comments come days after the U.S. Justice Department announced they are suing Georgia over the law, alleging Republican state lawmakers rushed through a sweeping overhaul with an intent to deny Black voters equal access to the ballot.
"Where we believe the civil rights of Americans have been violated, we will not hesitate to act," Attorney General Merrick Garland said Friday in announcing the lawsuit.
SEE MORE: SCLC joins lawsuit against Georgia's new election law
Republican lawmakers in the state pushed back immediately, pledging a forceful defense of Georgia’s law. In the same interview, Kemp said the DOJ should be focused on the uptick in crime in major cities nationwide, including Atlanta.
Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, said he would contest the suit. The Republican official was harshly criticized by then-President Donald Trump and his allies for rebuffing efforts to challenge the outcome of the state’s vote in the 2020 election. Raffensperger largely supported the new law and faces a primary challenge from a congressman backed by Trump.
"The Biden Administration has been spreading lies about Georgia’s election law for months," Raffensperger said in a statement. "It is no surprise that they would operationalize their lies with the full force of the federal government. I look forward to meeting them, and beating them, in court."
While much of the more controversial aspects of Georgia’s new voting law were dropped before it was passed, it is notable in its scope and for newly expansive powers granted to the state over local election offices.
RELATED: Fulton County commissioners vote to challenge Georgia's election reform law
The bill, known as SB 202, also adds a voter ID requirement for mail ballots, shortens the time period for requesting a mailed ballot and results in fewer ballot drop boxes available in metro Atlanta — provisions that drew the challenge from the federal government.
"The changes to absentee voting were not made in a vacuum," Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said. "These changes come immediately after successful absentee voting in the 2020 election cycle, especially among Black voters. SB 202 seeks to halt and reverse this progress."
The lawsuit also takes aim at another controversial measure — a ban on the distribution of food and water by various groups and organizations to voters standing in line to cast a ballot. Democrats say the support is needed to encourage voters who find themselves in long lines. Republicans argue the measure is needed to prevent unlawful electioneering from happening at polling places.
In 2020, just two states had ID requirements for voters requesting a mailed ballot. Along with Georgia, lawmakers in Florida have also passed a law requiring additional identification for mail voting. Clarke described the Georgia law as adding "new and unnecessarily stringent" identification requirements to mail voting.
In Georgia, drop boxes were permitted last year under an emergency rule prompted by the coronavirus pandemic. State Republicans have defended the new law as making drop boxes a permanent option for voters and requiring all counties to have at least one. But critics say the new limits mean there will be fewer drop boxes available in the state’s most populous communities.
SEE MORE: What is in Georgia's new election law?
For the entire metro Atlanta area, Democrats estimate the number of drop boxes will fall from 94 last year to no more than 23 for future elections based on the new formula of one dropbox per 100,000 registered voters.
Clarke noted that metro Atlanta is home to the largest Black voting-age population in the state.
The NAACP and civil rights leaders such as Stacey Abrams applauded the administration’s step. NAACP President Derrick Johnson said Georgia’s law was a "blatant assault on the American people’s most fundamental and sacred right, the right to vote."
The law already is the subject of seven other federal suits filed by civil rights and election integrity groups that raise a number of claims under the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in voting.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.