The Justice Department is suing Georgia over its voter suppression law that was recently passed by Republicans, alleging the law violates the federal Voting Rights Act by purposely imposing voting restrictions that largely affect minorities.
“Our complaint alleges that recent changes to Georgia’s election laws were enacted with the purpose of denying or abridging the right of Black Georgians to vote on account of their race or color, in violation of Section Two of the Voting Rights Act,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a news conference on Friday.
The suit comes just months after Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law S.B. 202. The measure, passed by the GOP-controlled legislature, imposed new voter identification requirements for absentee ballots and allows for unlimited challenges to a voter’s registration — a tactic historically used to intimidate and racially profile voters. The law also limits the use of ballot drop boxes.
Democrats in Congress have attempted to shore up voting rights by introducing the For the People Act, voting rights legislation that is intended to combat the wave of state voter suppression laws passed by GOP lawmakers nationwide. But just this week, Senate Republicans used the filibuster to block it from a vote. Seven other suits have been filed against the Georgia law since Kemp signed it in March.
Kemp issued a statement reacting to the DOJ’s announcement, saying it was “born out of the lies and misinformation the Biden administration has pushed against Georgia’s Election Integrity Act from the start.”
But Assistant Attorney for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke said at the press conference that the suit will focus on provisions in the bill that would deny black voters their rights. “These legislative actions occurred at a time when the black population in Georgia continues to steadily increase and after a historic election that saw record voter turnout across the state, particularly for absentee voting, which Black voters are now more likely to use than white voters,” Clarke said. “Our complaint challenges several provisions of S.B. 202 on the grounds that they were adopted with the intent to deny or abridge black citizens equal access to the political process.”
Garland signaled that a move like this was in the offing when earlier this month during a speech at the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division he announced plans to expand oversight on voting rights and strengthen voter protections that have been “have been drastically weakened” in recent years.