Justice Department Sues Georgia for Targeting Black Voters With Its New Voting Law
Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Friday that the U.S. Justice Department is suing the state of Georgia over its new voting law, saying that the controversial measure is intended to restrict ballot access to Black voters.
“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 2 of the Voting Rights Act,” Garland said at a news conference.
The lawsuit marks the first major action from the Biden administration to combat a series of new restrictive voting measures passed by Republican-led state legislatures. And it came on the eighth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision to gut another key provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act, Section 5.
In March, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, signed Senate Bill 202, a 98-page omnibus measure that makes sweeping changes to the state’s absentee voting rules, adds new voter identification mandates and nearly cuts in half the amount of time for voters to request a mail-in ballot. It also expands early voting access for most counties and formally codifies Sunday voting hours as optional.
The legislation outlaws passing out food or drinks to voters within 150 feet of a polling place or too close to voters waiting in line, a provision that Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, who heads the department’s Civil Rights Division, highlighted at the press conference.
“Historically, minority voters in Georgia have been disproportionately more likely to wait in long lines to vote in person on Election Day,” she said. “Given those long and protracted wait times, civic groups, including churches, have at times provided food and water to voters in line to make their wait more comfortable. As we allege in our complaint, this needless ban was passed with unlawful discriminatory intent.”