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A year after fiery speech on voting rights, Biden delivers more low-key speech

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Mr Warnock, however, said in his victory speech that evening that he had won despite voter suppression. Stories of Georgian voters waiting for hours in long lines around buildings, he said, were “certainly not a sign that voter suppression doesn’t exist.”

Early figures indicated that nationally, the black share of the electorate in the midterm elections had fallen to its lowest level since 2006, particularly in states like Georgia. Many factors could explain why black voter turnout has returned to levels common before President Barack Obama’s era, analysts have said. And a review of the numbers suggested the low black turnout might not have changed the outcome of a major race.

But the change in some states was striking. In Georgia, Louisiana and North Carolina, the average black turnout was 26% lower than that of white voters, according to state records, compared to 13% lower in the midterm elections of 2018. Georgia and Louisiana both passed new restrictions ahead of the 2022 election, while North Carolina did not.

Nowhere was the problem more pronounced than in Georgia, where Dr. King led the fight for civil rights. Ebenezer is hallowed ground for the civil rights movement, with the old church having long since become a sprawling complex of buildings and memorials, including the crypt containing Dr. King and his wife, Coretta Scott King.

In the sanctuary opposite the previous church, Mr Biden joined Mr Warnock and more than 1,000 parishioners to invoke the spirit of Dr King on what would have been his 94th birthday. While Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Mr. Obama have all spoken at Ebenezer, Mr. Biden was the first sitting president to deliver a Sunday sermon.

He said Dr. King and Robert F. Kennedy were his heroes as a young man and, as he has done in the past, Mr. Biden left the impression that he was perhaps more involved in civil rights movement than other people’s memories indicate. He introduced himself as “a 22-year-old kid on the east side of the civil rights movement”, although he did not claim to have been arrested, as he did last year. (The Republican National Committee nonetheless released a statement saying, “Joe Biden has once again lied about his life story.”)

In his sermon, the president hailed Dr King as a “nonviolent warrior for justice” who remains an inspiration to the current generation nearly 60 years after his famous “I have a dream” speech.

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