The Department of Justice (DOJ) may take legal action against states that roll back emergency election regulations put in place amid the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
“The right of all eligible citizens to vote is the central pillar of our democracy, and the Justice Department will use all of the authorities at its disposal to zealously guard that right,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a Wednesday statement. “The guidances issued today describe certain federal laws that help ensure free, fair, and secure elections. Where violations of such laws occur, the Justice Department will not hesitate to act.”
The DOJ released documents on Wednesday outlining the department’s view of post-2020 election reforms many states have put into place as well as ongoing election audits. One of the documents warns states that reforms rolling back emergency measures adopted mid-pandemic may lead to a legal fight with the federal government.
“Since the 2020 election, some States have responded by permanently adopting their COVID-19 modifications; by contrast, other States have barred continued use of those practices or have imposed additional restrictions on voting by mail or early voting. In view of these developments, guidance concerning federal statutes affecting methods of voting is appropriate,” a document released by the DOJ Wednesday begins.
“The Department’s enforcement policy does not consider a jurisdiction’s re-adoption of prior voting laws or procedures to be presumptively lawful; instead, the Department will review a jurisdiction’s changes in voting laws or procedures for compliance with all federal laws regarding elections, as the facts and circumstances warrant,” it continues.
Democrats led by the Biden administration have attacked efforts by GOP lawmakers to enact election reforms following the 2020 election. President Joe Biden and other Democrats ignited a storm around Georgia’s election reforms by comparing the measures, designed to restore trust in the state’s election process, to racist “Jim Crow” laws.
The DOJ sued Georgia in June over its election reforms. Garland argued that the state’s voting reforms “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 2 of the Voting Rights Act.”
Democratic attacks on the state, condemned by the state’s GOP leaders, sparked corporate backlash against Georgia. Major League Baseball announced in April that it was boycotting Georgia over the election reforms, moving its All-Star game as well as the 2021 draft out of Atlanta.
Texas Democratic lawmakers fled the state to Washington, D.C., on July 12 to break quorum during a special session in the Texas House and block election reform legislation supported by Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott. The Democratic lawmakers have stayed in Washington for weeks in protest of the Texas election reforms while advocating for a federal election overhaul that would concentrate authority over elections in the federal government.
“Texas Democrats’ decision to break a quorum of the Texas Legislature and abandon the Texas State Capitol inflicts harm on the very Texans who elected them to serve. As they fly across the country on cushy private planes, they leave undone issues that can help their districts and our state,” Abbott ripped the rogue lawmakers in a statement. “The Democrats must put aside partisan political games and get back to the job they were elected to do. Their constituents must not be denied these important resources simply because their elected representative refused to show up to work.”