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Attorney General Merrick Garland arrives at a Senate hearing Wednesday. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Pool via Getty Images

Attorney General Merrick Garland will give a policy address on voting rights at 2 p.m., promising "concrete steps ... to secure the fundamental right to vote for all Americans," the Justice Department says.

Why it matters: President Biden said last week that he's prioritizing fights for federal voting-rights protection, as Republicans in legislatures across the country pass their own election laws. Democrats' efforts were set back Sunday when Sen. Joe Manchin said he wouldn't support a centerpiece bill passed by the House.

  • Biden earlier this month announced Vice President Harris will be leading the administration's push to protect voting rights. He has called the GOP-led wave of voting restrictions "Jim Crow in the 21st century."
  • Harris said in a statement that the administration "will not stand by when confronted with any effort that keeps Americans from voting," promising to work with voting rights organizations, the private sector and lawmakers to protect voting access.

By the numbers: As of April, there were 361 bills being considered across different states that could make it harder for people to vote, Axios' Stef Kight reports.

  • Most of the bills would limit the use of absentee voting and drop boxes, while others would impose stricter voter ID requirements.

What they're saying: A DOJ official told Axios that Garland "will discuss the central importance of voting rights to American democracy. He’ll announce steps the department is taking to secure and expand the right to vote for all Americans, including in states seeking to curb voter access."

  • "He will also speak to the upcoming redistricting cycle, the first since 1960 to proceed without preclearance protections of the Voting Rights Act."

Go deeper

Sep 17, 2021 - Axios Twin Cities

Police overhaul measure back on ballot as Minneapolis voters head to polls

Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Early voting begins in Minneapolis this morning, with a consequential question on the future of the police department back on the ballot.

Driving the news: In an eleventh hour ruling, the Minnesota Supreme Court overruled a Hennepin County judge's decision to strike the police charter amendment from the ballot over concerns that the language was too vague.

Why it matters: Question 2, which proposes replacing the Minneapolis Police Department with a new public safety agency that could include officers "if necessary," could fundamentally change public safety in Minneapolis by removing the minimum officer requirement and giving the City Council more say in police policies.

  • Supporters had argued that the judge's intervention subverted the will of the 20,000-plus voters who signed a petition to get the measure on the ballot.

What they're saying: Both supporters and critics of the proposal applauded the court's ruling.

  • "Voters can rejoice that their voice, their civic engagement, and their votes matter," a statement from the "yes" campaign read.
  • Mayor Jacob Frey, who opposes the measure, said the court made "the right call," saying residents "deserve the opportunity to weigh in this fall and bring this debate to a close so we can move forward with clarity for our residents' safety."

Between the lines: The fight over the measure is expected to attract national attention and major spending on both sides — opponents are launching their first TV ad.

  • That battle could impact turnout and the outcome of other local contests, including the mayor's race and competitive City Council match-ups.
  • Questions on city governance and rent control, as well as the Park Board and Board of Estimate and Taxation races, are also on the ballot.

Zoom out: It's not just Minneapolis. Early voting begins in dozens of municipalities and school districts across the state today.

  • Voters in St. Paul pick a mayor, school board members and face a rent control question of their own.
  • Contests elsewhere cover city government, school boards, tax levies and other local ballot questions.

Be smart: Absentee ballots can be cast in person, often at an early vote center or local election office, or by mail. Click the links for early voting sites across Hennepin and Ramsey counties.

State supreme court approves ballot question on Minneapolis police

A memorial to George Floyd outside the Cup Foods corner store where he died last March. Photo: Nicholas Pfosi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Minneapolis voters will be able to weigh in on the city's police department on the local ballot, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

Why it matters: The proposed charter amendment was spurred by mass protests against police brutality after George Floyd's death last year. It would replace the city's police department with a new Department of Public Safety that "could include" police officers "if necessary."

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. sounds alarm on Ukraine

Conscripts line up at a Russian railway station yesterday before departing for Army service. Photo: Sergei Malgavko/TASS via Getty Images

The Biden administration is "deeply concerned" by new intelligence — detailed for Axios and other outlets — showing Russia stepping up preparations to invade Ukraine as soon as early 2022.

Why it matters: Most of this was known from public sources and satellite imagery, but the administration is sending a stronger signal by releasing specific details from the intelligence community.