The US Department of Justice has said it will prosecute Georgia over its new law limiting access to ballots, in the Biden administration’s first major lawsuit against voting restrictions in states led by Republicans.
Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the move on Friday and said it could be a precursor to action against other states that have adopted or are considering similar measures to limit voting.
“Our complaint alleges that recent changes to Georgia’s electoral laws were enacted with the aim of denying or restricting the right to vote of black Georgians because of their race or color,” Garland said.
The case comes after the Biden administration and Congressional Democrats suffered a setback in their efforts to advance legislation for protect voting rights at national scale. Republicans in the Senate this week blocked a bill that would have prevented states from enacting laws restricting voting.
In addition to becoming a big political flashpoint, Republican efforts to restrict access to the vote have also created a divide with business, with some large American companies publicly opposite the surge in Georgia and several other states.
Republicans have said new election laws are needed to crack down on fraud, echoing former President Donald Trump’s arguments, despite no evidence of large-scale fraud in the last election.
Justice Ministry officials said their case mainly focused on provisions in Georgian law that restricted access to postal voting. Kristen Clarke, the deputy attorney general for civil rights, said the measures “pushed more black voters to vote in person, where they will be more likely than white voters to face long lines.”
Garland had been committed from his earliest days to leading the Department of Justice to strengthen the enforcement of voting protections. He insisted on Friday that any violation of existing federal election laws – including the 1965 Voting Rights Act – would be challenged.
The DoJ would “analyze other state laws that have been passed, and we are monitoring the progress of legislative proposals under consideration in other states where we believe Americans’ civil rights have been violated.” We will not hesitate to act, ”Garland said.
The legal fight over voting rights is expected to be shaped by an upcoming Supreme Court ruling on the issue, which is expected before the end of June. The political battle is also expected to rage over the next few months and until the 2022 midterm elections.
Earlier this month in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Biden sworn to “fight like hell” to protect voting rights despite obstacles on Capitol Hill, as he commemorated the 100th anniversary of a deadly and destructive attack on a prosperous black neighborhood by a white mob.
He also put Kamala harris, the vice-president, in charge of the voting rights portfolio of his administration.
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, a think tank, at least 17 states have enacted 28 new laws restricting voting access since the start of the year. Besides Georgia, other such states include Florida, Arizona, Indiana, and Iowa. Texas nearly approved its own restrictions on voting access, but the effort was scuttled, at least temporarily, at the last minute after Democrats staged a dramatic walkout from the state legislature.