Republicans in Arizona, Florida, and Iowa have also introduced new voting restrictions; Pennsylvania and Texas could follow.
The US Department of Justice is filing a civil rights lawsuit against a new restrictive electoral law in the US state of Georgia, Attorney General Merrick Garland said on Friday.
Georgia law, passed by a Republican-controlled state in March, aims to reverse voting by African Americans in the southern state, which has a history of discriminatory electoral practice, Garland said in a statement to the Justice Department.
“Wherever we believe American civil rights have been violated, we will not hesitate to act,” Garland said, citing authorities under federal electoral law, including the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibits discrimination in US elections.
President Joe Biden won Georgia as the first Democratic candidate in thirty years in the US 2020 presidential election.
The new Georgia law is one of a wave of new measures passed this year by Republican-controlled state legislatures after former President Donald Trump falsely claimed that his November election defeat was the result of widespread fraud.
The US case against Georgia is being handled by the Department of Justice’s civil rights division, which “did not make this decision lightly,” said Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general.
“Our careful review of the facts and the law shows that” Georgia’s new law violates US voting rights because it was “passed with a discriminatory purpose,” said Clarke.
Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke leads the Department of Justice’s case against an electoral law in Georgia that imposes new restrictions on voting [Ken Cedeno/Reuters]
The Republican governors of Arizona, Florida, and Iowa have also signed new election restrictions earlier this year, while state legislatures in Pennsylvania and Texas seek similar measures.
Georgia Bill, signed by Governor Brian Kemp on March 25, tightened postal voting requirements, restricted the use of ballot boxes, and allowed a Republican-controlled state agency to do local votes. The state was a major battleground in the 2020 presidential election.
A sweeping Democrat-backed bill to reform US electoral law would have lifted new state restrictions passed by Republican lawmakers. It failed to penetrate the US Senate this week.
Garland announced earlier this month that the Justice Department would review new election restrictions passed by Republican lawmakers and double the number of lawyers used to enforce federal electoral law.
“This lawsuit is the first of many steps we are taking to ensure that all eligible voters can cast a vote,” Garland said on Friday.
“We are reviewing new laws aimed at restricting voter access and if we find violations of federal laws we will act.”
The judiciary will provide guidance on by-election reviews conducted by Republican and Trump supporters to challenge the 2020 election results, Garland said.
Republicans in Arizona have confiscated ballots from the 2020 election and are conducting a “check” that has been criticized for irregularities.
Michigan Republican lawmakers are considering pursuing a similar approach even after a bipartisan review found no evidence of an improper vote in Michigan and dismissed Trump’s fraud allegations.
Garland instructs the FBI and federal prosecutors to investigate and prosecute threats of violence against local election workers, which have increased since Trump’s defeat.
“We are seeing a dramatic increase in threats and violent threats” against election administrators and election workers, he said.
Biden had condemned the new Georgian law, calling it an “abomination” and “a blatant attack on the constitution and the good conscience”.
After losing the election, Trump pressured state and local electoral officials in Georgia to overturn his electoral defeat by disqualifying the Democratic ballot.
Trump urged Justice Department officials to remove the federal attorney in the Atlanta area. Trump’s actions are now being investigated by Georgia law enforcement agencies.