Biden, Harris deliver speech in Atlanta

Photo by Taylor Gray Student Publications

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Atlanta on Jan. 11 to speak at the Atlanta University
Center Consortium. 

The AUCC houses Morehouse College, Spelman College, Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse’s School of Medicine, all of which are Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). 

 The President and Vice President spoke about rectifying the infringement of voting rights across the nation, especially following the 2020 election. 

Many Republican-dominated state legislatures sought to implement new voting laws in their states after theories about election fraud in the 2020 presidential election spread nationwide.

Georgia was one of the states who successfully went through with modifying its election law. 

Many limitations to voter and poll worker activity were implemented, such as requiring voter identification for absentee ballots, using provisional ballots for out-of-precinct voting, the use of mobile voting buses and giving food and water to those standing in long lines at the polls.

The Georgia state legislature was also given more control over county election boards, which are the administrative bodies that certify elections. Voting rights activists are concerned that the legislature could intervene with the board’s certification of results that may not be desirable to them. 

The new law also codifies the requirement of dropboxes. While dropboxes were a temporary emergency measure during the last election, the new law calls for at least one dropbox to be in
every county. 

The maximum number of dropboxes allowed is determined by either one dropbox in every early voting location or one dropbox for every 100,000 active voters, but the lower of the two numbers is allowed. 

The United States Election Assistance Commission, a government agency that upholds election standards, security and accessibility, recommends that dropboxes be placed for between every 15,000 and 20,000 voters. 

The dropboxes must also be placed within in-person early voting facilities under constant surveillance. 

There are many areas in Georgia with a low amount of early voting locations, and they are typically in minority- and disability-dominated neighborhoods. 

The dropbox restrictions have raised concerns about accessibility to voting for these populations.

The law also requires that those who request an absentee ballot have a driver’s license number, a state identification number or an electronic scan of an ID. 

Many activists are concerned with how the requirements and limitations will disproportionately affect people of color and other marginalized groups in Georgia.

Georgia’s state legislature has also rewritten many minority-dominated district lines in the last year, a measure that many believe are another form of voter

In his speech to the AUCC, Biden spoke out against limitations like these and legislators like those who are allowing the voting restrictions. 

As the Senate GOP continues to block federal voting rights legislation from being passed, the topic of the speech was potent for both Georgia and federal officials. 

Some of those in attendance of the speech included family of Martin Luther King Jr. and Senators Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock and Amy Klobuchar. 

Mayor Andre Dickens and former Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms were also in attendance.

The President and Vice President’s arrival and departure from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport created traffic in downtown Atlanta.

When they arrived at Hartsfield-Jackson at 12:45 p.m., state troopers began a rolling roadblock on Interstate 85 north between the airport and downtown. 

The same blocks and ramp closures were put in as Biden and Harris returned to Hartsfield-Jackson for their departure
at 6:15 p.m.

While the closures created traffic, the process itself is consistently efficient and fast-moving, as Atlanta has had to enact the closures for presidents many times before.