WASHINGTON: The United States announced a crackdown on voting discrimination Friday amid a Republican effort to tighten poll laws that is widely seen as aimed at Black voters, reports AFP.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said that he would double the number of attorneys the department has to enforce the right to vote.He said they will challenge laws and policies being proposed locally around the country that could make it more difficult for certain groups to cast their ballots.
“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.”
“We are also scrutinizing current laws and practices, in order to determine whether they discriminate against Black voters and other voters of color,” he said.
Garland pointed to policies in some areas that force nonwhite voters to wait in long lines at polling stations, while voters in mostly white districts face minimal waits.
He said the department would also set guidelines on early voting and voting by mail, on redistricting maps, and on recount rules, that would be used to enforce equal voting rights.
“There has been a dramatic rise in legislative efforts that will make it harder for millions of citizens to cast a ballot that counts,” Garland said.In the wake of last year’s record voter turnout—helped by early and by-mail voting—that saw Republicans lose control of the White House and Senate, Garland noted that at least 14 states have passed new laws this year making it harder to vote.
In all of those, Republicans have pushed the laws, against opposition by Democrats.
Republicans lost ground against democrats in a number of states where African Americans turned out in record numbers to vote.
Black voter turnout was particularly important in Georgia, long a Republican stronghold which Democrats captured in a major victory in the November 2020 presidential election.
Republicans have also forced or tried to force vote recounts and audits based on unsupported claims of fraud.
“Some jurisdictions, based on disinformation, have utilized abnormal post-election audit methodologies that may put the integrity of the voting process at risk and undermine public confidence in our democracy,” Garland said.
The announcement comes as President Joe Biden’s proposal to shore up voting rights in law is expected to die in the closely-split US Senate.
Garland said he could not wait for that legislation, but that it was crucial for the future.
He said the challenge had been set by a 2013 Supreme Court ruling on a challenge to the 1965 Voting Rights Act that made it harder to enforce against states and jurisdictions where discrimination is evident.
That ruling, he said, took away “critical tools” that the Justice Department had relied upon to fight voter suppression laws rampant in the American south that targeted African Americans.
Passing Biden’s legislation in Congress “would provide the department with the tools it needs,” Garland said.