Biden’s DOJ Pledges To Challenge Discriminatory Vote Suppression

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After the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court upheld restrictive voting provisions in Arizona this week, the Justice Department — led at present by Attorney General Merrick Garland — spoke out. The restrictions in question included a rule disqualifying provisional ballots that Arizona voters cast in precincts other than their own and a prohibition against most individuals other than the voter themselves returning any given mail-in ballot. As is the case in other states where Republicans have pushed suppressive election restrictions, neither of these provisions are connected to any legitimate evidence of systematic election integrity problems.

After the Supreme Court’s decision, Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley released a statement reading as follows:

‘The Attorney General has made clear, ‘the Department of Justice will never stop working to protect the democracy to which all Americans are entitled.’ The department remains strongly committed to challenging discriminatory election laws and will continue to use every legal tool available to protect all qualified Americans seeking to participate in the electoral process. The department urges Congress to enact additional legislation to provide more effective protection for every American’s right to vote.’

The Justice Department, under Garland’s leadership, has already filed a legal challenge to a set of restrictive election provisions that were recently put in place in Georgia. Among other changes, those suppressive new election guidelines even ban mobile polling places, which were used last year in Fulton County, a highly populated area with a substantial Black population. The changes also include new voter ID requirements for mail-in voting, despite the fact that no systematic election integrity issues were discovered with the state’s previous signature-based system of verifying mail-in ballots. A post-election audit of 15,000 signatures submitted with mail-in ballots in Cobb County, Georgia, uncovered zero instances of fraud.

Federal authorities allege in their new lawsuit that Georgia officials enacted the election changes “with knowledge of the disproportionate effect that numerous provisions, both singly and together, would have on Black voters’ ability to participate in the political process on an equal basis with white voters.” Meanwhile, Congressional leaders are hoping to pass voting rights protections like the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which is more limited in scope than the recently filibustered For the People Act and would re-institute a requirement for preclearance by federal authorities of certain proposed changes to the conducting of elections. The idea would be to stop suppressive restrictions before their implementation.