Attorney General Merrick Garland said Friday the Justice Department will double the number of staff dedicated to protecting voter rights within the next 30 days.
Mr. Garland said the new attorneys will bolster the department’s work to limit gerrymandering and establish guidelines for absentee and mail voting ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.
The new hires signal Mr. Garland’s increased emphasis on voting rights. The Trump-era Justice Department did not hire any new attorneys for the Civil Rights Division, and some walked away. That left the division with about half the number of lawyers it had under the Obama administration.
“There are many things that are open to debate in America, but the right of all eligible citizens to vote is not one of them,” Mr. Garland said in a speech in Washington. “The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, the right from which all other rights ultimately flow.”
“The Civil Rights Division is going to need more lawyers,” he added later.
Mr. Garland also pledged to examine new restrictive voting laws across the country and take action against any “violations of federal law.”
He also urged Congress to enact a voting-rights bill that would expand the department’s authority to protect voting rights, but the bill is facing long odds.
The House in March passed a voting-rights bill along party lines that would bolster voting protections But the legislation is unlikely to clear the evenly-split Senate, where 60 votes are needed to pass.
Centrist Democrats, like Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, have opposed the measure.
Mr. Garland also voiced support for another voting rights bill that would restore the Justice Department’s “preclearance” authority.
A 1975 bill granted the Justice Department the authority to review proposed changes to state voting procedures, but a 2013 Supreme Court decision eliminated that power.
The bill named after former Congressman John Lewis is also struggling to find support in the Senate.