U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland sought to reassure Americans last Friday that the Justice Department will do everything within its power to protect voting rights.
Delivering a policy address at the Justice Department, AG Garland said “to meet the challenge of the current moment, we must rededicate the resources of the Department of Justice to a critical part of its original mission: enforcing federal law to protect the franchise for all eligible voters”.
In his address, Garland referenced some of the voter suppression efforts of states saying ”so far this year, at least 14 states have passed new laws that make it harder to vote”.
More states restrict the right to vote in the land of the free
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, between January 1 and May 14, 2021, at least 14 states enacted 22 new laws that restrict access to the vote. More restrictions on the vote are likely to become law, as roughly one-third of legislatures are still in session. At least 61 bills with restrictive provisions are moving through 18 state legislatures. More specifically, 31 have passed at least one chamber, while another 30 have had some sort of committee action (e.g., a hearing, an amendment, or a committee vote).
At his maiden speech on the floor of the United States Senate back in March, Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA) gave a strong rebuke of the voter suppression bills that were being introduced in state legislatures:
“This is Jim Crow in new clothes. Since the January election, some 250 voter suppression bills have been introduced by state legislatures all across the country. From Georgia to Arizona. From New Hampshire to Florida. Using the ‘big lie’ of voter fraud as a pretext for voter suppression. The same ‘big lie’ that led to a violent insurrection on this very Capitol the day after my election. Within 24 hours, we elected Georgia’s first African-American, first Jewish senator, and hours later the Capitol was assaulted. We see in just a few precious hours, the tension very much alive in the soul of America.”
As part of this mission, AG Garland said the Justice Department would double the number of voter enfranchisement lawyers in the Civil Rights Division and more closely scrutinize laws that relate to the right to vote, including examining state legislation for possible disenfranchisement against Black voters and other people of color.