The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit Friday against the state of Georgia over its new election integrity law, alleging that it is discriminatory and aims to restrict citizens from voting.
Attorney General Merrick Garland and Kristen Clarke, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, announced the suit, which alleges that the Georgia law discriminates against black voters.
“The rights of all eligible citizens to vote are the central pillars of our democracy,” Garland said at a press conference at the Justice Department. “They are the rights from which all other rights ultimately flow.”
Georgia’s legislation, enacted in March by the Republican-controlled state legislature and Republican Governor Brian Kemp, requires photo ID to vote by mail and cuts the time voters have to request an absentee ballot, limits use of ballot drop boxes, and empowers the state legislature with greater authority to oversee the election process.
After a 2020 election fiasco marked by unfounded voter fraud claims and delayed results, especially in Georgia, Republicans in the state spearheaded the bill to promote election confidence and transparency.
However, Democrats cast the initiative as a suppression tactic to keep underprivileged communities and minorities away from the ballot box and prevent them from exercising their civic right to vote. Some Democrats compared the legislation to the Jim Crow-era laws designed to disenfranchise African Americans.
A numbers of voting rights groups, such as the New Georgia Project, the Black Voters Matter Fund and Rise Inc., have already challenged the law in court.
The lawsuit comes days after Republicans blocked the Democrats’ “For the People Act,” which aimed to federalize elections and curtail the rights of states to bar felons form voting and implement various election integrity measures.
“This lawsuit is the first of many steps were are taking to ensure that all eligible voters can cast a vote, that all lawful votes are counted and that every voter has access to accurate information,” Garland said, urging Congress to grant his department greater latitude to combat alleged voter suppression.
The announcement also comes as a number of Republican-dominated states have enacted new voting laws aimed at restoring integrity and public trust in elections. Florida’s version curtails the mass-mailing of unrequested mail-in ballots, tightens signature requirements, and pushes in-person voting.