Attorney General Merrick Garland said Friday that the Department of Justice would be swiftly increasing its resources to enforce voting rights, citing a 2013 Supreme Court ruling and draft laws being pushed by Conservatives across the country to control the electoral process tighten.
In a speech at the department’s headquarters, Garland said that over the next 30 days he would double the workforce in the civil rights department dedicated to protecting the right to vote.
The ministry, he said, has already begun examining new laws that he said will “restrict access to voters,” as well as policies and measures that are already on the books.
Specifically, Garland said the department is reviewing recent studies showing that non-white people line up much longer than whites to vote in some jurisdictions.
“To meet the challenge of the moment, we need to devote the Justice Department’s resources to a critical part of its original mission: enforcing federal laws to protect the right to vote for all voters,” Garland said.
Garland, a former federal judge, said the department’s new moves were inspired by “a dramatic increase in legislative efforts that will make it difficult for citizens to cast a vote that matters”.
“So far this year, at least 14 states have passed new laws making it harder to vote, and some jurisdictions have used abnormal post-election screening techniques due to disinformation that can compromise and undermine the integrity of the voting process.” public confidence in our democracy, “said Garland.
The attorney general alluded to a 2020 election recount in Maricopa County, Arizona, backed by former President Donald Trump. The Justice Department wrote in a letter last month that the state’s Republican Senate review could violate federal law.
“Much of the justifications used in support of these by-election reviews and electoral restrictions were based on allegations of material fraud in the 2020 elections that were refuted by law enforcement and intelligence services, both this and the previous government, as and by each court, State and state she was considering, “Garland said.
He added, “In addition, many of the changes are not even designed to address the types of electoral fraud alleged as justification.”
Garland has sought to emphasize the independence of his Justice Department from President Joe Biden, a Democrat, even as he distances the federal agency from its controversial record under Trump, who sometimes urged his lawyers to defend his personal interests. Trump has falsely claimed that his loss in the 2020 election was fraudulent.
In addition to the wave of conservative electoral laws in states like Texas, Georgia, and Arizona, Garland also cited a 2013 Supreme Court ruling known as Shelby County v. Holder.
The decision effectively repealed the preliminaire clarification requirement of the Voting Rights Act, which forced certain jurisdictions with evidence of discrimination to have amendments to the Electoral Act approved by the Ministry of Justice.
Garland said that in 1961 then Attorney General Robert Kennedy called Assistant Attorney General Burke Marshall and Marshall’s first assistant, John Doar, to his office.
Before the pre-authorization requirement came into effect in 1965, Garland said, “the only way to guarantee the right to vote for black Americans was to take individual action in each county and township that discriminated against them.”
“Kennedy told his assistants that he wanted to do that,” Garland said. “‘Well, General,’ replied Burke Marshall, ‘you must have a lot more lawyers if you want that.'”
“Well, today we’re back with no pre-clearance,” said Garland. “So the civil rights department will need more lawyers again.”
Garland said the Justice Department will not only increase the staffing of the civil rights department, but will also publish guidelines on post-election checks, as well as early voting and voting by mail. He said the department will also publish new guidance before the ten-year redistribution cycle.
“We will be releasing new guidance to clarify the electoral protection that applies to all jurisdictions when they recreate their new legislative plans,” Garland said.
Garland added that the department, which includes the Federal Bureau of Investigation, will also bring criminal charges against those who violate federal law by spreading disinformation about elections in order to suppress voting.
“We have not blinded the dramatic increase in threatening and violent threats against all types of federal and local election workers,” Garland said. “Such threats undermine our electoral process and violate a variety of federal laws.”
The Supreme Court is expected to rule shortly on a voting law case that could affect legal challenges to the new voting restrictions. The court has a 6-3 majority of Republican-appointed judges.
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