US is suing Georgia originally of the push to guard voting rights

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WASHINGTON, June 25 (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Justice on Friday challenged a Georgia electoral law that allegedly violates the rights of black voters when it launched a campaign against a wave of government measures restricting access to voting.

Georgia law, which also bans the distribution of water or food to people waiting in long lines at polling stations, is one of hundreds of new measures passed this year by Republican-controlled state lawmakers driven by the false claims Former President Donald Trump was fueled that his November election defeat was the result of fraud.

“This lawsuit is the first of many steps we are taking to ensure that all eligible voters can cast a vote,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a news conference. “We are reviewing new laws aimed at restricting voter access and if we find violations of federal laws we will act.”

After a sweeping Democrat-sponsored electoral reform bill died in a party line vote earlier this week in the Senate, President Joe Biden pledged to take other steps to protect voting rights.

The department will also offer new guidelines for post-election exams, following a wave of 2020 results contested by Trump supporters, and new directions for the FBI and federal prosecutors on how to prosecute threats against election workers.

“We are seeing a dramatic increase in threatening and violent threats ranging from senior officials to volunteer campaigners,” Garland said.

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.

These states will be the battlegrounds in next year’s mid-term elections that will determine control of Congress.

Georgia law, 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 hold local votes.


People gather during a stop on the Freedom Ride For Voting Rights at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, the United States, June 21, 2021. REUTERS / Dustin Chambers

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The state was a major battleground in the 2020 presidential election and was also the site of two runoff elections in January that were won by Democrats who gave Biden’s party a razor-thin majority in the U.S. Senate.

Biden, who became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win Georgia in three decades, called the new law an “abomination”.

“This lawsuit is born out of the lies and misinformation that the Biden government pushed against Georgia’s electoral integrity law from the outset,” Kemp said in a statement on Friday. “You are arming the US Department of Justice to carry out your left-wing extremist agenda.”

Trump repeatedly tried to put pressure on Georgia election officials after losing the state to Biden. In a phone call with the foreign minister, Trump asked him to “find” the votes that would be needed to reverse his defeat.

He also pressured the Justice Department to evict the US attorney in the Atlanta area. His actions are now being investigated by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.

Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general for civil rights, said Georgia lawmakers passed the law “in a rash process that departed from normal practice.”

The lawsuit, she said, targets a number of provisions of the law, including restrictions on postal voting – a measure that will encourage black voters to vote in person in a state that often faces long lines.

She said the department is also questioning the ban on distributing food and water to voters and the law’s restrictions on the number of ballot boxes, among other things.

“The Justice Department will not stand idly by unlawful attempts to restrict access to voting,” she said.

The Conservative Majority Supreme Court has made it difficult in recent years to challenge both election restrictions and the drawing of constituencies.

In 2013 it gutted an important section of the voting law protecting minority voters, and in 2019 opposed attempts to curb the manipulation of voting cards by politicians aimed at entrenching a party in power, a practice known as gerrymandering. The court could further weaken the voting law next week in a ruling on voting restrictions in Arizona.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Scott Malone and Chizu Nomiyama