GUEST EDITORIAL: With Georgia suit, Biden shows he's not surrendering on voting rights

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial Board (TNS)
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland delivers remarks on voting rights at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., on June 11, 2021. (Tom Brenner/Pool/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

The Biden administration last week upped the ante in the struggle over voting rights, announcing it is suing the state of Georgia to prevent it from enacting draconian new restrictions. Given the filibuster roadblock that Senate Republicans imposed, just days earlier, against legislative attempts to address vote-suppression schemes in Georgia and other red states, the lawsuit is appropriate — and should be the first of many.

Georgia is one of more than a dozen Republican-controlled states that have passed a flurry of laws this year designed to make voting more difficult, with restrictions on absentee voting, narrower early voting windows, additional identification requirements and more. Some of the measures also give state legislators — meaning, the very Republicans who are passing the laws — more direct power over running elections, which are normally in the hands of local election authorities. The laws are overwhelmingly stacked against Democratic voters — by design — to hamper voting especially voting in urban areas. Those chiefly affected are minorities and the poor.

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None of this is happening in a vacuum, of course. Sponsors of these laws maintain they are needed to address the mass voter fraud that former President Donald Trump still falsely claims cost him last year’s election. Trump’s voter-fraud allegation is a lie to its core — there’s simply no evidence whatsoever for it — and these laws are predicated on those lies.

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The Georgia law would give voters less time to request absentee ballots, prohibit mailing ballots to all voters, ban mobile voting centers, severely restrict use of ballot drop boxes around heavily Democratic Atlanta, and give the Legislature the power to suspend county election officials. It even criminalizes giving food and water to people waiting in line to vote.

Since urban areas have more voters and longer lines, most of the provisions will hamper voting in those regions more than in lightly populated rural areas. Urban centers tend to be home to more Democrats — and to more African Americans, which is the crux of the Justice Department’s lawsuit. The law will “reduce access to absentee voting at each step of the process, pushing more Black voters to in-person voting where they will be more likely than white voters to confront long lines,” one department official told Politico.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said Friday that his department is analyzing recently passed voting laws in other states, a strong signal that this litigation won’t stop with Georgia. It shouldn’t.

The federal voting rights reforms that congressional Democrats tried to pass last week would have addressed these and other issues by creating a baseline of ballot access that states would have to adhere to in their election laws. Senate Republicans filibustered it in its tracks, refusing to even debate it. See you in court is proper response in Georgia and in the other states that are attempting to undermine democracy.

— St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial Board (TNS).