Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Friday that the Department of Justice is suing Georgia, alleging that the state's recently passed voting law discriminates against black voters.
The Justice Department claims Georgia's election law violates Section Two of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits voting laws that "discriminate on the basis of race, color, or membership in one of the language minority groups." In a press conference, Garland said the state passed the law "with the purpose of denying or abridging the right of black Georgians to vote on account of their race or color." He thanked journalists in particular for drawing his attention to certain provisions in the law.
"I want to give credit to the news media," he said. "There were a number of articles that collected all the threats and discussed them, putting them together in a way that, frankly, I had not seen before."
Democrats and members of the media criticized the Republican-backed voting law after it was passed in March, saying the legislation amounted to black "voter suppression" and a "new Jim Crow." The New York Times called it "the most extensive contraction of ballot access in generations," while President Joe Biden called it "Jim Crow on steroids." Republicans have said the purpose of the law was to restore voter confidence after the results of the November election were fiercely contested in the state.
The Georgia voting law is a widely misunderstood piece of legislation. The law imposes some restrictions on absentee or mail-in voting while expanding other provisions. Among other measures, it lengthens the early voting period but requires identification to vote absentee.
Failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams (D.), who has never conceded the 2018 race she lost to Gov. Brian Kemp (R.), led a coalition of activists in opposition to the law, claiming its voter ID provision was suppressing black voters.
"Voters without a driver's license or state ID must surrender their personal information and risk identity theft just to receive an absentee ballot," she said in April. She later reversed her position after Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) signaled his support for voter ID provisions.
"No one has ever objected to having to prove who you are in order to vote," she said last week.
One pervasive rumor about the law, trumpeted by Democratic politicians and journalists, was that it prohibited giving food or water to voters waiting in line. In March, Biden said the provision was explicitly intended to suppress the vote. "This is nothing but punitive, designed to keep people from voting. You can't provide water for people about to vote. Give me a break!"
The law has no such provision and, in fact, says the opposite. It encourages poll officers to provide water to voters in line. The law prohibits electioneering—the practice of exchanging goods and services, including food and water, for votes.
Kemp said Friday that Biden and other Democrats were "weaponizing" the Justice Department by suing Georgia "to carry out their far-left agenda."
"This lawsuit is born out of the lies and misinformation the Biden administration has pushed against Georgia's Election Integrity Act from the start," he said. "Joe Biden, Stacey Abrams, and their allies tried to force an unconstitutional elections power grab through Congress—and failed."