Congressmen tell Merrick Garland: States, not DOJ, have control over U.S. election process

Garland is "complicit in a broader effort by elected Democrats to politicize federal voting rights laws," representatives claim.

Updated: August 12, 2021 - 12:28pm

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Two prominent congressmen on Thursday offered a sharp rebuke to Attorney General Merrick Garland's recent guidance on U.S. elections, claiming the Department of Justice was "playing into the hands" of "baseless and partisan Democrat opposition" with its threat of punitive action against states that reform their voting laws.

The Department of Justice's guidance, issued late last month, claimed in part that states seeking to return their voting rules to those that existed prior to the pandemic will not receive the presumption of lawfulness from the Department of Justice and will be subject to increased oversight as a result. 

In their letter, Reps. Jim Jordan and Mike Johnson pointed out that the U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures "primary responsibility for setting election rules," and that Garland's guidance was "misguided and contrary to Congressional intent."

"Many of the changes that state and local governments made to voting procedures in 2020 were temporary, emergency changes to 'promote both the safety of their citizens and robust democratic participation' during the pandemic," the congressmen wrote. "These jurisdictions should be allowed to evaluate the changing circumstances and their experiences in 2020 and make appropriate lawful changes, without the threat of litigation from the federal government."

The representatives said that the guidance makes Garland "complicit in a broader effort by elected Democrats to politicize federal voting rights laws," and that the Justice Department is "playing into the hands of the baseless and partisan Democrat opposition to state voting reform efforts."

The letter requests documentation related to Garland's guidance as well as materials related to the Department of Justice's recent lawsuit against Georgia over that state's voting reform law. The letter asks for a response by Aug. 23.