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Justice Dept. to Sue State of Georgia Over New Voting Restrictions
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=21724"><span class="small">David Nakamura, The Washington Post</span></a>   
Friday, 25 June 2021 13:17

Nakamura writes: "The legal challenge takes aim at Georgia's Election Integrity Act."

Judge Merrick B. Garland. (photo: Stefani Reynolds/The New York Times)
Judge Merrick B. Garland. (photo: Stefani Reynolds/The New York Times)

Justice Dept. to Sue State of Georgia Over New Voting Restrictions

By David Nakamura, The Washington Post

25 June 21


ustice Department officials announced a federal lawsuit Friday against Georgia over new statewide voting restrictions that federal authorities allege purposefully discriminate against Black Americans, the first major action by the Biden administration to confront efforts from Republican-led jurisdictions to limit election turnout.

The legal challenge takes aim at Georgia’s Election Integrity Act, which was passed in March by the Republican-led state legislature and signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp (R). The law imposes new limits on the use of absentee ballots, makes it a crime for outside groups to provide food and water to voters waiting at polling stations, and hands greater control over election administration to the state legislature.

The action came as GOP-led state governments across the country have been seeking to impose broad new voting restrictions in the wake of President Biden’s victory over Donald Trump last November. Trump has spent months waging a baseless effort to discredit the result, making false and unsubstantiated allegations of widespread voter fraud.

In Georgia, Black voters helped drive record turnout for the presidential election and handed the state to Biden, who became the first Democratic nominee to win the state in 28 years.

“Georgia experienced record voter turnout and participation rates in the 2020 election cycle. … This is cause for celebration,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in announcing the lawsuit. Instead, he said, the Georgia legislature passed a bill whose provisions “make it harder for people to vote. The [federal] complaint alleges that the state enacted those restrictions to deny or abridge the right to vote on the basis of race or color.”

Kemp responded Friday on Twitter, asserting the federal lawsuit stems from “lies and misinformation” spread by Biden’s administration and other Democrats. “Now,” the governor charged, “they are weaponizing the U.S. Department of Justice to carry out their far-left agenda that undermines election integrity and empowers federal government overreach in our democracy.”

Garland said he also directed the Justice Department to establish a task force to bolster efforts to protect election workers from abuse and threats, citing recent news accounts that such intimidation tactics have been on the rise. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco issued a memo to the department’s staff detailing the new measures.

Garland and Monaco were joined at the announcement by Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta and Kristen Clarke, the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. The show of solidarity aimed to demonstrate the department’s commitment to enforcing federal voting rights protections amid demands from civil rights groups and Democrats that the Biden administration do more even as a voting rights bill has stalled on Capitol Hill amid Republican opposition.

In detailing the federal filing, Clarke said Georgia lawmakers rushed to pass the new restrictions outside of traditional legislative process, bypassing the standard public debate and deliberation periods of other state laws. The result, Clarke said, was a bill that sought to significantly curb the use of absentee ballots, which Black voters have used at higher rates than Whites in Georgia.

The law prohibits election officials from distributing unsolicited absentee ballots and shortens the period during which voters can request them. The new restrictions also limit the use of absentee ballot drop bosses.

Black voters, Clarke said, are more likely than Whites to face long lines when forced to vote at polling stations, and confusing information more often results in Black voters going to the wrong polling site, meaning their ballots are more likely to be invalidated.

“The Justice Department will not stand idly by in the face of unlawful attempts to restrict access to the ballot,” Clarke said. “Today’s filing demonstrates our commitment to this cause.”

Liberal groups and some Democratic lawmakers have expressed frustration over what they see as Garland’s slow and insufficient efforts to overturn some of the Trump administration’s policies and practices at the Justice Department. But officials said the Georgia lawsuit represents a deliberate but forceful effort by Garland and his team to stand up for voting rights of minorities. Gupta, Clark and Pam Karlan, the principal deputy assistant attorney general, helped develop the lawsuit over the past few months, and officials indicated that more such actions could come against other GOP-led jurisdictions.

“We are looking at laws that were passed before and those that were recently passed,” Garland said. “We will make the same judgments we made with respect to this one. We have a process for evaluating” each of the cases. your social media marketing partner