On Friday, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that he would use the Department of Justice (DOJ) to target “new laws that make it harder to vote,” like the Georgia law President Joe Biden called “Jim Crow on steroids.” Garland falsely claimed that courts and intelligence agencies had “refuted” 2020 election integrity concerns, suggesting that the laws to restore election integrity are based on “disinformation” and even racism.
“There has been a dramatic rise in legislative efforts that will make it harder for millions of citizens to cast a vote that counts. So far this year, at least 14 states have passed new laws that make it harder to vote, and some jurisdictions, based on disinformation, have utilized abnormal post-election audit methodologies that may put the integrity of the voting process at risk, and undermine public confidence in our democracy,” Garland declared.
He noted that the DOJ Civil Rights Division has sent letters expressing concern that audits into the 2020 election may violate provisions of the Voting Rights Act, particularly one provision that bars intimidation of voters. He did not explain how an audit of votes already cast can intimidate voters who have already voted.
Garland pledged to fight voter fraud, but he repeated the tired line that 2020 election integrity concerns had been “refuted.”
“As part of its mission to protect the right to vote, the Justice Department will of course do everything in its power to prevent election fraud and if found, to vigorously prosecute it,” the attorney general pledged. “But many of the justifications proffered in support of these post-election audits and restrictions on voting have relied on assertions of material vote fraud in the 2020 election that have been refuted by law enforcement and intelligence agencies of both this administration and the previous one, as well as by every court, federal and state, that has considered them.”
While law enforcement and intelligence agencies declared that there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud, that does not amount to a refutation of election integrity concerns. In fact, Time Magazine published an astonishing story about a “cabal” and a “shadow campaign” that pulled the levers behind the scenes in the 2020 election. While the article claims these efforts aimed at preserving a free and fair election, organizations like the Center for Tech and Civic Life funneled money into blue areas of the country, boosting turnout that helped Biden prevail.
Across the country, officials loosened voter safeguards in the name of allowing people to vote amid a pandemic. The election integrity laws in various states represent efforts to ensure that only legal voters vote, to restore the status quo pre-pandemic, and to prevent the kind of “shadow campaign” Time exposed.
Yet Garland echoed the racialist rhetoric of Biden in announcing his effort to combat these laws.
“We are scrutinizing new laws that seek to curb voter access, and where we see violations, we will not hesitate to act,” Garland said, The Hill reported. “We are also scrutinizing current laws and practices in order to determine whether they discriminate against Black voters and other voters of color.”
The attorney general pledged that the DOJ would double the number of attorneys working on voting rights issues in the next 30 days. (Trump had left the department with 15 voting rights lawyers, about half the number under Obama.)
Contrary to Garland’s suggestions, voting integrity laws aim at restoring confidence in elections, not undermining it. The 2020 election involved a great deal of irregularities, from ballot drop-boxes with insecure chains of custody to the widespread mailing of mail-in ballots using outdated voter lists. Efforts to secure ballots from potential fraud are not based on disinformation or racism, but on legitimate concerns.
Yet it seems the Biden administration is intent on not just using baseless hyperbole to condemn election integrity efforts, but on weaponizing the DOJ to find pretexts to declare election-integrity measures illegal.
AG Merrick Garland: "There has been a dramatic rise in legislative efforts that will make it harder for millions of citizens to cast a vote that counts." pic.twitter.com/DDbKzqNTLQ
— The Hill (@thehill) June 11, 2021