President Joe Biden’s attorney general, Merrick Garland, said Monday that the Justice Department is “seriously and urgently investigating” how states are changing voting procedures or redistricting to ensure they are not violating federal voting rights.
“We are seriously and urgently investigating and examining other changes in procedures and practices, and particularly looking at all the redistricting that’s done as a consequence of the decennial census,” Garland said during an interview at the New Yorker Festival.
“We are worried about attacks on voting systems, attacks from an internet security point of view. We are worried about attacks on secretaries of state and administrators of elections and even poll workers,” he said, adding he had established a task force to investigate these threats.
Garland’s comments come just a few months after the Justice Department sued Georgia, alleging it infringes on the rights of Black voters by tightening absentee ballot identification requirements, restricting ballot drop-box use, and even banning the distribution of water or food to people waiting on long lines at polling places. In July, the Justice Department also issued legal guidance warning states to tread carefully, citing an “unusual second round of examinations” into 2020 election results cropping up in various states even though none of the prior state recounts had “produced evidence of either wrongdoing or mistakes.”
Garland acknowledged that the Justice Department’s legal powers to address voting rights have been weakened, thanks in part to a 2013 Supreme Court case that gutted a key section of the Voting Rights Act, and urged Congress to pass new legislation to restore its authority.
“Are our tools weakened? Yes they are,” Garland said. “But our passion hasn’t weakened.”
State lawmakers insist the toughened standards being enacted ensure the security and accuracy of elections for all Americans, following a 2020 election season dominated by allegations of widespread and systemic voter fraud leveled by the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.