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Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Friday that the Department of Justice is suing the state of Georgia over its voting restrictions, alleging that a law passed this spring discriminates against Black voters.

Why it matters: It's the first major action the Biden administration has taken in response to the wave of voting restrictions that Republican-led states have sought to impose in the wake of President Biden's election.

  • In a major policy speech earlier this month, Garland pledged to make voting rights a top priority, doubling the number of enforcement staff dedicated to protecting the right to vote.
  • The lawsuit is being overseen by Kristen Clarke, the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela Karlan.
  • Garland also announced Friday that DOJ is launching a task force to investigate and respond to threats against election officials, according to a memo to federal prosecutors and the FBI.

What they're saying: "Our complaint alleges that recent changes to Georgia's election laws were enacted with the purpose of denying or abridging the right of Black Georgians to vote on account of their race or color, in violation of Section Two of the Voting Rights Act," Garland said at a briefing Friday.

The other side: Georgia's Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in statement after DOJ's announcement: "The Biden administration continues to do the bidding of Stacey Abrams and spread more lies about Georgia's election law. I look forward to meeting them, and beating them, in court."

  • "As Secretary of State, I fought the Obama Justice Department twice to protect the security of our elections — and won," Gov. Brian Kemp (R) said in a statement. "I look forward to going three for three to ensure it’s easy to vote and hard to cheat in Georgia."

Driving the news: Kemp signed the sweeping overhaul to the state's election laws in March.

  • The law, called Georgia’s Election Integrity Act, includes measures that cut the time period voters have to request absentee ballots, limit drop boxes, impose new identification requirements and give greater control of election administration to the state legislature.
  • Voting activists say the measures are intended to target heavily Democratic jurisdictions and will hurt Black and Latino voters the most.

The big picture: The announcement comes just days after Senate Republicans blocked a sweeping voting rights package that would overhaul federal elections and combat state voting restrictions. President Biden has called the Georgia voting law "Jim Crow in the 21st century."

What to watch: "This lawsuit is the first of many steps we are taking to ensure that all eligible voters can cast a vote, that all lawful votes are counted, and that every voter has access to accurate information," Garland said.

  • "The Civil Rights Division continues to analyze other state laws that have been passed, and we are following the progress of legislative proposals under consideration in additional states," he continued.
  • "Where we believe the civil rights of Americans have been violated, we will not hesitate to act."

This story has been updated.

Go deeper

Sep 24, 2021 - World

EU warns Russia not to allow cyberattacks ahead of German elections

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) and European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell. Photo: Russian Foreign Ministry\TASS via Getty Images

The European Union warned Russia in a statement on Friday not to allow hackers to attack databases or spread disinformation as Germany holds its parliamentary elections this weekend.

Why it matters: German security officials said there was a cyberattack at the Federal Statistical Office, the office which oversees the German election, per the Associated Press. Russian cyberattacks targeted the 2020 U.S. Presidential election last year, and tried to sow distrust in U.S. election results, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Senate GOP pushes DOJ to roll back Trump oversight rule

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Senate Republicans want the Justice Department to roll back Trump-era restrictions on congressional oversight criticized at the time as an attempt to insulate the Trump administration from Democratic investigators, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: While some Republicans spoke out against the DOJ guidance at the time, it was mostly Democrats who attacked it as a constitutionally dubious effort to scuttle congressional oversight. Now the shoe is on the other foot, and the GOP is making similar arguments with Biden in the White House.

Sep 24, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Democrats release full text of Biden's $3.5T reconciliation package

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Friday unveiled the full text of President Biden's $3.5 trillion social spending package.

Why it matters: Democrats are racing to finish negotiations and get the bill on the floor as soon as possible so Pelosi can fulfill her promises to both House centrists and progressives about the timing and sequencing of passing the party's dual infrastructure packages.