AG Garland says Justice Department will 'double' enforcement staff to oversee U.S. voting rights

The Attorney General's speech comes amid Republican-led efforts to reform voting laws across the country.

Published: June 11, 2021 1:50pm

Updated: June 11, 2021 2:45pm

Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday announced that the Department of Justice would be "doubling" its enforcement staff to oversee the implementation of voting rights around the country, a move that comes amid a major push by Republican-led legislatures across the U.S. to reform voting laws in an effort to ensure secure local and federal elections.

Garland in his speech cited widespread efforts by Republican legislators around the country to shore up state voting systems with measures such as voter I.D. requirements and stringent oversight on matters such as mass mail-in voting. Those efforts have been decried as "voter suppression" by Democrats and activists around the U.S. 

So far this year, at least 14 states have passed new laws that make it harder to vote," Garland claimed during the speech.

Citing existing federal statute—including the historic Voting Rights Act—Garland said the Justice Department over the next month would "double the division's enforcement staff for protecting the right to vote."

"We will use all existing provisions in the Voting Rights Act” to guarantee voting rights and “ensure that we protect every qualified American seeking to participate in our democracy," Garland said.

The attorney general in the speech called the right to vote "the cornerstone of our democracy."

“There are many things that are open to debate in American," he said, "but the right of all eligible citizens to vote is not one of them.”

Garland became well-known throughout the U.S. in 2016 after then-President Barack Obama nominated him to replace the late Antonin Scalia as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.

The Republican majority in the Senate refused to hold a hearing for Garland, arguing that they should wait until after that year's presidential election to determine who would fill Scalia's vacancy. 

Biden nominated Garland for the attorney general spot earlier this year; he was confirmed by the Senate in March.

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