Garland to declare voting rights expansion 'central' to democracy

The attorney general's speech comes as voting rights legislation faces dire odds in Congress.

Garland to declare voting rights expansion 'central' to democracy

Attorney General Merrick Garland is set to affirm the expansion of voting rights as a “central pillar” to American democracy, building upon the Biden administration’s commitment as the issue has gained prominence in the aftermath of the 2020 elections.

“We know that expanding the ability of all eligible citizens to vote is the central pillar,” Garland will say, according to an excerpt of his prepared remarks released by the Justice Department on Friday afternoon. “That means ensuring that all eligible voters can cast a vote; that all lawful votes are counted; and that every voter has access to accurate information.

Garland is also expected to promise that the Justice Department will continue to “protect the democracy to which all Americans are entitled,” according to the DOJ excerpt.

Garland’s speech comes as voting rights legislation faces dire odds in Congress given Democrats’ bare majorities in both the House and Senate, as well as internal tensions between progressives and moderates about Biden’s preferred expansion: the “For the People Act.”

That bill was given the symbolically important H.R. 1 and S. 1 designations, typically a display of the majority leadership’s top priority.

But Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) last week cemented his opposition to that measure in an op-ed published in the Charleston Gazette-Mail and subsequent media interviews, saying that it “would divide us further” as a nation. (He did signal his support for the narrower H.R. 4 named in honor of late Democratic Rep. John Lewis.)

Manchin’s declaration all but doomed the legislation in a 50-50 Senate and garnering opprobrium from outspoken liberal Democrats, who have increasingly become activated around voting rights issues as Republican state lawmakers impose new election laws in the wake of former President Donald Trump’s loss to Biden.

Much of that attention has been focused on Texas — which is still pending — and Georgia, though other GOP-led states like Florida have pushed to implement new laws that on the whole tighten voting rules with an emphasis on things like mail-in voting and non-traditional voting options like 24-7 ballot drop boxes and "drive-thru" polling stations.

The Republican-driven effort comes as Trump has refused to accept the legitimacy of his loss to Biden and his fervent supports have latched onto various election-related conspiracy theories that seek to call into question the integrity of last year's contests.