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“There are many things that are open to debate in America but the right of all eligible citizens to vote is not one of them."
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday vowed to vigorously defend voting rights in America, during a time when Republican legislatures are imposing election laws that Democrats say will make it harder for citizens to vote.
His speech at the Justice Department comes as supporters of former President Donald Trump continue to tout baseless claims that the 2020 election was rigged as justification for these new laws.
Garland said the Justice Department will prosecute threats against election officials, double the number of prosecutors devoted to voting rights and closely examine how states conduct their elections.
“We are scrutinizing new laws that seek to curb voter access and where we see violations, we will not hesitate to act. We are also scrutinizing current laws and practices in order to determine whether they discriminate against Black voters and other voters of color."
Garland's announcement marks a sharp shift in policy for the Justice Department, which under Trump dropped several ambitious voting-rights lawsuits and brought only one case under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a landmark civil rights law.
That law required states with a history of discrimination to get permission from the Justice Department before changing the way they ran elections, until the Supreme Court struck down that provision in 2013.
That led to a surge of changes in southern, Republican-led states that voting rights advocates say have disproportionately affected Black and Hispanic voters.