President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice is warning states that they should expect to face extra “scrutiny” if they revert back to “racially discriminatory” pre-pandemic voting procedures, a department official said on Wednesday, referencing a recent lawsuit filed by the DOJ against the state of Georgia.
During a press call attended by American Military News, the department official said the DOJ didn’t want to let jurisdictions think they “have a safe harbor to say ‘well, because we ran our voting system this way before the pandemic, we’re free to go back to that even if going back to that has a racially discriminatory impact. Or even if going back to that is in part motivated by racial reasons.’”
According to the DOJ’s Guidance Concerning Federal Statutes Affecting Methods of Voting reviewed by American Military News, the department’s “enforcement policy does not consider a jurisdiction’s re-adoption of prior voting laws or procedures to be presumptively lawful; instead, the Department will review a jurisdiction’s changes in voting laws or procedures for compliance with all federal laws regarding elections, as the facts and circumstances warrant.”
The official went on to say the “decision to abandon some…practices, for example, to make it harder to leave votes in drop boxes and the like” violates Americans’ fundamental right to vote, highlighting the lawsuit filed against Georgia.
“So what we’re just saying to jurisdictions is you should not assume that if you abandon the practices that have made it easier for people to vote, that abandonment is not going to get scrutiny from the Department of Justice,” the official said. “And in terms of the tools we have, obviously we don’t have the strongest tools to prevent that…but we still have Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which [prohibits] the adoption of a practice that has the purpose of discriminating on the basis of race, or language minority status, or that has a discriminatory result.”
“One of the historical themes of the department’s work going back decades has been that there were times that jurisdictions would revert back to prior practices for bad reasons,” a second official added.
In the DOJ’s lawsuit against Georgia, the department claims several provisions in the state’s new voting law were made on the basis of racial discrimination, including banning government entities from distributing unsolicited absentee ballots, shortening the deadline to request absentee ballots to 11 days prior to Election Day, limiting the use of ballot drop boxes and that absentee voters must provide proof of identification.
The push to label Georgia’s new voting law as racist was met with criticism from many in the GOP, including former Speaker Newt Gingrich, who wrote in April, “The truth is: Georgia’s new election law has expanded opportunities to vote in that state. The law standardized the use of secure voting drop boxes (they were only allowed in emergencies under prior law). It expanded early voting (both in days and hours) – including mandatory weekend voting for people who work weekday hours (contrary to the lies President Biden has been repeating).”
“Simply put: Georgia’s new election law has made it easier to vote – but harder to cheat. That fact explains why Democrats hate it so much,” he concluded.