By Jack Phillips
The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Friday filed a lawsuit against Georgia over the state’s recently passed Election Integrity Act, announced Attorney General Merrick Garland, who alleged the law is a violation of the federal Voting Rights Act’s protections for minority voters.
“Where we see violations of federal law, we will act,” Garland said at a press conference on Friday, describing the new lawsuit as “the first of many steps we are taking to ensure that all eligible voters can cast a vote.”
The DOJ’s move is the first federal response to the push by Republican-led state legislatures for more regulations around elections; including mandating popular voter ID laws; rule changes around mail-in balloting; enhanced signature verification processes, audits, and more. Democrats, meanwhile, have pushed for sweeping legislation that would attempt to expand voting access; while rejecting controls around voter ID, mail-in balloting, and other proposed laws.
During Friday’s announcement, Garland appeared to echo rhetoric from Democrats who argued that Georgia’s voting law would violate the rights of black people and other minority groups.
“We are scrutinizing new laws that seek to curb voter access, and where we see violations of federal law, we will not hesitate to act,” Garland said. “We are also scrutinizing current laws and practices, in order to determine whether they discriminate against black voters and other voters of color.”
The attorney general did not provide more details about the claim that the law violates minority groups’ rights during the news conference. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, previously has categorically denied that the law would imperil minorities’ voting rights.
On Friday, in a statement to The Epoch Times, Kemp criticized the DOJ’s lawsuit as being a product “of the lies and misinformation the Biden administration has pushed against Georgia’s Election Integrity Act from the start.”
“Now,” his statement added, “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.”
The lawsuit comes about three months after Kemp signed the measure into law, which had been passed by the GOP-controlled legislature.
Broadly, the law mandates a Georgia driver’s license or a state-issued or state-approved ID in order for one to vote absentee by mail, replacing the previous signature match process that was in place that was previously derided by Kemp and GOP lawmakers. Among other measures, it also limits the use of ballot drop-boxes.
Over the past several months, Kemp has repeatedly defended the law, asserting that Democrats including President Joe Biden have willfully mischaracterized it. Biden and other Democrats have said the law invokes the Jim Crow-era laws that had enforced segregation.
“It is obvious that neither President Biden nor his handlers have actually read SB 202, which I signed into law yesterday,” Kemp said in a statement to The Epoch Times earlier this year. “This bill expands voting access, streamlines vote-counting procedures, and ensures election integrity.”
Garland’s lawsuit and announcement also came after the Senate failed to advance a sweeping Democrat-backed voting bill after Republicans invoked the filibuster. And earlier this month, Garland made a major policy speech and pledged to make voting laws a top priority for his department.
Georgia isn’t alone in passing a voter integrity bill. In May, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, signed a similar law, while other state legislatures across the country are considering similar legislation.
The new DOJ lawsuit is being handled by Kristen Clarke, the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela Karlan.
“The provisions we are challenging reduce access to absentee voting at each step of the process pushing more Black voters to in person voting, where they will be more likely than white voters to confront long lines,” Clarke said Friday in criticizing the law, adding that civic groups are banned from handing out food and water to individuals waiting in line. Kemp and Republicans have denied the claim about lines.
Meanwhile, Gupta’s involvement in the case is sure to draw GOP scorn. During her Senate confirmation hearing earlier this month, she faced intense GOP pushback over her views on policing and prior criticism of conservatives. Some groups have also questioned her previous involvement with the Oakland, California-based Rockwood Leadership Institute, which is accused of having close ties with the Chinese Communist Party.
The federal lawsuit DOJ’s lawsuit was filed in the Northern District of Georgia. The suit is one of several others petitioning the courts for relief after the voting measure was signed into law.
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