WASHINGTON – The Justice Department will strengthen its civil rights division in an aggressive effort to combat policies and laws that restrict voter access and discriminate against marginalized voters, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced on Friday.
“To meet the challenge of the current moment, we must devote the Department of Justice’s resources to a critical part of its original mission: enforcing federal laws to protect the right to vote for all eligible voters,” Garland said, noting a recent wave of law in several states that restrict voting access.
Garland said within the next 30 days the department will double the enforcement staff of the Civil Rights Department, a powerful division within the agency that investigates hate crimes, police abuse and other civil rights violations.
“We are reviewing new laws aimed at restricting voter access and if we find violations of federal laws we will not hesitate to act,” Garland said. “We are also reviewing current laws and practices to see if they discriminate against black voters and other colored voters.”
The announcement comes in the middle of a national tug-of-war over the right to vote, which is expected to be a central topic in the mid-term elections in 2022. Republican lawmakers across the country have proposed measures that would restrict access to voting while Democrats press for it comprehensive legislation to expand voter access.
Garland, along with Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta and Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, are expected To play a vital role in fulfilling President Joe Biden’s promise to restore voting rights.
Gupta and Clarke, who both attended Garland’s speech on Friday, are well-known figures in the Washington, DC civil rights arena. Clarke has spent her career advancing the franchise, both as a Justice Department attorney and as an advocacy advocate.
Featuring: Deborah Barfield Berry