Republican-led legislatures in several states including Georgia, Florida and Iowa have passed laws imposing new voting restrictions, and Texas, New Hampshire, Arizona, and Michigan, among others, are considering changes to their electoral systems.
At the same time, hopes dwindled on the left that Congress would pass two major electoral bills after the senator Joe Mansion The third, the West Virginia Democrat, said he wouldn’t support repealing the disruption to move forward with such measures.
Mr. Garland said protecting the right to vote is one of his top priorities as attorney general, and among his top aides are prominent voting rights advocates such as Vanita Gupta, official number 3 in the circle, and Kristen ClarkHead of the Civil Rights Division. The department currently has about a dozen law enforcement personnel, which is focused on protecting the right to vote, according to a department official familiar with the staff.
Despite his pledge, Mr. Garland remains limited in what he can do unless Democrats in Congress somehow manage to pass new voter protection laws. He can sue states that are found to have violated any of the country’s four major federal voting rights laws. He can notify state and local governments when he believes their actions violate federal law. Federal prosecutors can indict people found to have intimidated voters, which is a federal crime.
The Department of Justice’s most powerful tool, the Voting Rights Act, has been significantly weakened due to a 2013 Supreme Court decision Which repealed parts of the law would force states with legacies of racial discrimination to seek approval from the Department of Justice before they can change their voting laws.
Now the department can only file a lawsuit after a law has been passed and found to be in violation of the law, meaning that a restrictive law can go through multiple election cycles while litigation makes its way through the courts.
Any new steps to protect voting rights are unlikely to move quickly, said Joanna Ledgate, a former deputy attorney general of Massachusetts who co-founded the US Center for Democracy. “People will need to be patient,” she said.