OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
When Merrick Garland was nominated to be Attorney General of the United States he promised to not allow politics to play a role in his job.
But on Saturday he obliterated that promise with, what many believe was, a highly partisan statement about voting laws, Fox News reported.
“One year ago today, the nation lost Congressman John Lewis. Throughout his life, Congressman Lewis fought fearlessly to ensure people’s freedom, equality, and other basic human rights. Nowhere was his impact greater than on strengthening the foundation of our democracy – the right to vote,” Garland said.
“Congressman Lewis often spoke about getting into ‘good trouble, necessary trouble,’ and his ‘trouble’ got results. In 1965, he and other civil rights leaders were attacked by state troopers as they peacefully marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Their act of protest paved the way for the passage of the Voting Rights Act, and an exponential increase in Black voter registration.
“In 2013, the Supreme Court’s Shelby County decision effectively eliminated the preclearance protections of the Voting Rights Act, which had proved to be one of the nation’s most effective tools for safeguarding voting rights. During the half-century it was in effect, the Justice Department relied on the preclearance provision to object to more than one thousand discriminatory voting changes. Since 2013, there has been a dramatic rise across the country in legislative efforts that make it harder for millions of citizens to vote. This increase accelerated after the 2020 elections,” the attorney general said.
“The recent further narrowing of voting protections only underscores the need for legislative action. The Department of Justice is using all the tools at its disposal to protect the voting rights of all citizens, but that is not enough. We need Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would provide the Department with important tools to protect the right to vote and to ensure that every vote is counted. There is no more fitting way to honor the profound legacy of Congressman Lewis,” he said.
A sitting United States attorney general calling for the passage of a partisan bill in Congress is abhorrent and you can imagine the fury Democrats would have had if Bill Barr had done it.
But during his confirmation hearing, when questioned by Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, he promised to keep politics away from his job.
“I’m telling you what I think an attorney general ought to do — which is to look at the facts before making a decision,” he said. “I’m also telling you that I will never make a decision in the department based on politics or partisanship.”
But since then, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the state of Georgia for its new voting laws. It is something that George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley believes will fail.
“I’m highly skeptical and I think that they may ultimately regret this move. It could indeed clarify this issue in the way that the Biden administration does not want,” he said to Fox News.
“This is a very dubious case in my view. Because the Georgia law has great overlap with other states like Delaware. Voter identification, as an example, is extremely popular with voters,” he said.
“One of the issues that the court may ultimately amplify is that elections were left in the Constitution to the state,” he said.
“Alexander Hamilton actually wrote in the Federalist Papers, imagine if the federal government was to take over the management of elections and he basically said we would all object.
“Well, that’s what’s happening now in Congress, they are trying to essentially federalize elections, and I think they are going to have a serious pushback on this lawsuit,” he said.
And Georgia officials called the move by Garland and the Department of Justice “blatantly political.”
“The Justice Department is wrong: factually, legally and constitutionally. Georgia’s law clearly strengthens security, expands access and improves transparency in our elections. Merrick Garland said he was going to depoliticize the Justice Department yet files this blatantly political lawsuit,” Georgia state Attorney General Chris Carr said.
“It is disappointing for those of us who respect the rule of law, because this is not a lawsuit, it is a political campaign flier. Falsely using race to scare people of color into believing their vote will not be counted is irresponsible and fundamentally wrong,” he said.