It was two weeks ago today when Attorney General Merrick Garland delivered remarks in which he declared that protecting voting rights was one of his top priorities. To that end, and against a backdrop in which Republicans are targeting the franchise in states nationwide, Garland presented a new Justice Department plan to preserve Americans' access to their own democracy.
The blueprint included doubling the DOJ's enforcement staff, scrutinizing voting laws for possible discrimination, and monitoring post-election audits.
Garland's comments sounded encouraging, though it was difficult to gauge with confidence how serious the AG's office would be about pushing back against the most egregious Republican policies.
The answer came into sharper focus this morning. NBC News reported that the Justice Department is "suing the state of Georgia over its recently enacted voting restrictions."
The move is the first federal enforcement action around the spate of Republican-led laws that impose limits on voting in the wake of former President Donald Trump's election loss. The Republican-controlled state government in Georgia imposed a set sweeping new restrictions, many of them fueled by Trump's false claims that the 2020 election had been subject to rampant fraud.
Almost immediately after Georgia Republicans imposed new voting restrictions, there was a significant national controversy, though in time many in the GOP suggested that the pushback was misplaced and the new state measures had been misconstrued. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) argued last month, for example, "If you look at the Georgia laws, for example, there's been a lot that's been said nationally about the Georgia voter laws that turns out not to be true."
In reality, Georgia's voter-suppression law is genuinely awful on the merits and will make it needlessly more difficult for the state's voters to participate in their own democracy. As Stacey Abrams recently explained to Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), GOP officials in the state have made it significantly harder to cast absentee ballots, made it harder to take advantage of voting drop boxes, and made it harder to take advantage of early voting.
Just as importantly, the new state law dramatically expands Republican state legislators' power over election administration.
The Georgia voter-suppression law is, in other words, that bad. And as of this morning, it's facing a federal legal challenge from the attorney general. Legal experts can speak with more authority than I can about the litigation's prospects, but it's hardly unreasonable to think that if the Justice Department prevails in this case, it will affect voter-suppression efforts elsewhere.