The Justice Department’s decision to file suit against the state of Georgia — alleging S.B. 202, the recently enacted law, violates the civil rights of Black voters in the state — is just a taste of things to come, President Biden, Attorney General Merrick Garland and their Democrat allies on Capitol Hill have made clear.
“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 the Voting Rights Act,” said Mr. Garland, announcing the lawsuit. That’s important — he’s not just saying the DOJ believes the changes to Georgia law will negatively affect black voters in Georgia; he’s saying that the changes to Georgia law were made to negatively affect black voters in Georgia.
Mr. Garland is, of course, wrong on both counts. The law will not harm black voters in Georgia, and it was not done to negatively affect them, either.
Because of a 2013 Supreme Court decision, the burden of proof is on the Department of Justice to make its case.
That 2013 decision – in the case of Shelby County v. Holder – overturned Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which mandated that any covered jurisdiction apply for and receive clearance in advance from the Civil Rights Division of the federal Department of Justice for any change to its election laws and procedures. Before that ruling, the Department of Justice would not have had to go to the trouble of suing the state of Georgia and proving its case in a court of law; it merely would have had to issue an order to the state, blocking implementation of the new law.
That’s the way Mr. Biden, Mr. Garland, and their Democrat allies on Capitol Hill wish things still were. They abhor that 2013 Supreme Court decision. They wish the career bureaucrats in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice were still empowered by federal law simply to issue decrees to state and local governments, blocking the actions of the state and local officials, if and when the feds see fit.
That’s why they’re pushing for a new law — the “John Lewis Voting Rights Act,” designated in the last Congress as H.R. 4, but as of this writing still not yet introduced in the current Congress — that would essentially reinstate Section 5’s preclearance regime.
Why should we empower federal bureaucrats with the power and authority to block the actions of state and local officials conducting their business without the need to prove to anyone other than themselves that the actions of the state or local officials are outside the law?
The DOJ’s lawsuit is bad enough. Mr. Garland and his attorneys are going to have an awfully difficult time proving in a court of law that the governor and state legislators in Georgia did what they did to disenfranchise black voters — or, frankly, even that the changes made to the law will have the negative effect on black voting that they claim.
But to change the federal law, to make the DOJ’s position the default position, to allow a bunch of federal bureaucrats to usurp the powers and authorities of legislatures at the state and local levels, to decide for themselves which changes are permissible and which changes are not? That would be wrong. It would be a violation of the principle of federalism. And it must be stopped.
• Jenny Beth Martin is the co-founder and national coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots.