America’s attorney general has been instructed in the law by two congressmen who reminded him that the Constitution protects states against a federal power grab when it comes to the thorny subject of elections.
Republican Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Mike Johnson of Louisiana rebuked Attorney General Merrick Garland for a recent shot across the bow of Republican-led states that might establish voting rules contrary to the political whims of Democrats.
“The Department’s enforcement policy does not consider a jurisdiction’s re-adoption of prior voting laws or procedures to be presumptively lawful; instead, the Department will review a jurisdiction’s changes in voting laws or procedures for compliance with all federal laws regarding elections, as the facts and circumstances warrant,” the document said.
Jordan and Johnson said they found this to be troubling.
“The Biden Administration’s new guidance bizarrely suggests that states may not return to voting laws and procedures that existed prior to the pandemic, saying those laws and procedures may not be ‘presumptively lawful.’ We have serious concerns about the Department’s radical attempt to politicize enforcement of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA),” they wrote in a letter to Garland.
The congressmen said that states are given the authority to oversee elections by the Constitution.
“The Election Clause of the U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures the authority to prescribe ‘[t]he Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections’ within their jurisdictions. Article II of the U.S. Constitution grants state legislatures the power to determine the manner of appointing presidential electors. Thus, in our system of government, state legislatures ‘bear primary responsibility for setting election rules,’ and this responsibility extends to federal elections,” the congressmen instructed Garland.
The letter said keeping emergency measures in place when the emergency is past defies logic.
“The new guidance is 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,” they 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 legislators went on to accuse Garland of playing politics with the vital issue of elections, saying the guidance “makes you complicit in a broader effort by elected Democrats to politicize federal voting rights laws.”
In the letter, they note that deep-blue Democratic states such as New York and Delaware do not have the extent of voting access that is part of new laws in Georgia and Texas — laws that Democrats claim restrict voting.
“Notably, the Department did not file suit against Delaware or New York. These facts make it appear that you are attempting to enforce the VRA based on partisan considerations rather than blindly applying the facts to the law,” the letter said.
“You and the Justice Department are sadly playing into the hands of the baseless and partisan Democrat opposition to state voting reform efforts by politicizing VRA enforcement and making it the policy that any change from temporary, emergency COVID-19 voting methods is presumed to be evidence of voter suppression,” the congressmen wrote.
Slamming congressional Democrats for their “unprecedented and brazen attempts to federalize our nation’s election processes,” the legislators called for Garland to rescind the document.
“Americans deserve free, fair, and accurate elections—and ones in which all Americans have confidence in the results,” thy wrote. “To achieve this ideal, enforcement of the VRA and other federal statutes protecting the right to vote must be apolitical.”
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