Washington, Jun 25 (EFE).- The United States Department of Justice announced Friday the filing of a lawsuit against Georgia over “racially discriminatory” provisions of the state’s new legislation on voting.
“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,” Attorney General Merrick Garland told a press conference.
He described the suit as “the first of many steps we 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.”
Elements in the Georgia deemed objectionable include the shortening of the deadline to request absentee ballots to 11 days before Election Day, the bar on voters who don’t have driver’s licenses from using their Social Security numbers to document their identity and the imposition of limits on use of absentee ballot drop boxes.
If the law had been effect last November, Atlanta – the state capital and the largest metropolis in the southern US – would have been allowed only around 20 drop boxes instead of the 100 election officials set up.
Legislatures in 14 other Republican-controlled states have passed measures similar to Georgia’s amid unsubstantiated claims by former President Donald Trump that his defeat to Democrat Joe Biden last November was the result of fraud.
Besides moves seen as intended to make it more difficult for minorities and the poor to cast ballots, Republican state lawmakers have asserted authority over decisions traditionally made by local election officials.
“Where we believe that the civil rights of Americans have been violated, we will not hesitate to act,” Garland said.
Along with the lawsuit against Georgia, the DoJ disclosed plans to create a task force to focus on what the attorney general called “a dramatic increase in menacing and violent threats” against election administrators and poll workers.
Many election officials, including Republicans, in states where Trump lost last November reported receiving death threats.
The DoJ announcement came three days after an ambitious Democratic proposal to make voting easier nationwide was derailed in the Senate as Republicans blocked a debate on the “For the People Act.”
Under current Senate rules, a super-majority of 60 votes is needed to pass legislation and Republicans hold half the seats in the 100-member chamber.
Democrats had hoped to persuade 10 Republican senators to support a procedural measure allowing debate on the bill, but not a single GOP lawmaker voted “yes” in a session presided over by Vice President Kamala Harris in her capacity as president of the Senate.