Justice Department sues Kemp and Georgia over new voting law
This week, the U.S. Justice Department sued the state of Georgia and Gov. Brian Kemp over the state’s new election law that includes restrictions on voting. The federal actions undertaken by the US Department of Justice is the eighth lawsuit seeking to overturn provisions of the new Georgia voting law. The federal government now stands with various voting rights groups who have also filed lawsuits, but unlike these groups, the government has resources at their disposal to mount this fight.
As the state was dealing with the ill effects of COVID-10, the legislation creating this new law was rammed through the legislature after the November elections failed to yield the results the Republican controlled House and Senate were expecting. Kemp swiftly signed it into law after it passed the Legislature, saying it was a way to enhance confidence in the election system. SB 202 was passed on a party-line vote by the GOP-controlled Legislature.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland framed the court challenge as a way to meet promises to aggressively protect voting rights. “Where we believe the civil rights of Americans have been violated,” Garland said, “we will not hesitate to act.”
The challenge seeks to overturn portions of Senate Bill 202, the 98-page rewrite of election rules that imposes new voter identification requirements, limits the use of ballot drop boxes, shifts early voting days and gives the Republican-controlled Legislature more oversight in elections.
Some say this move by the federal government sets up a legal showdown over Republican-led changes that President Joe Biden and other Democrats cast as disproportionately harmful to Black voters. The federal government’s lawsuit follows the failed attempt by the U.S. Senate to pass legislation that would have dulled the impact of ballot restriction laws passed by Georgia and other states after the 2020 election.
Dismissing the significance of the lawsuit by the federal government, Kemp described the litigation as an attempt to rile up Democratic voters ahead of next year’s elections. Saying it is a way to enhance confidence in the election system, Kemp and other Republicans in Georgia vowed to defend the law. “They are weaponizing the U.S. Department of Justice to carry out their far-left agenda that undermines election integrity and empowers federal government overreach in our democracy,” said Kemp.
The complaint is the first major voting rights case brought by the Justice Department under the Biden administration and the eighth lawsuit filed in the country seeking to overturn the law.
For the first time since 1992, Georgians voted Democratic for President in the November 2020 election. Voters would later elect Democrats in January 2021 to serve in both U.S. Senate seats, flipping control of the chamber to Democrats.