Republican-led legislatures in several states including Georgia, Florida and Iowa have passed laws imposing new voting restrictions, and Texas, New Hampshire, Arizona and Michigan, among other states, are considering changes to their electoral systems.
At the same time, hopes have dimmed on the left that Congress will pass two major election bills after Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, said he would not support abolishing the filibuster to advance such measures.
Mr. Garland has said that protecting the right to vote is one of his top priorities as attorney general, and his top lieutenants include high-profile voting rights advocates such as Vanita Gupta, the department’s No. 3 official, and Kristen Clarke, the head of the Civil Rights Division. The division currently has about a dozen employees on its enforcement staff, which is focused on protecting the right to vote, according to a department official familiar with the staff.
Despite his pledge, Mr. Garland is still limited in what he can do unless Democrats in Congress somehow manage to pass new voter protection laws. He can sue states that are found to have violated any of the nation’s four major federal voting rights laws. He can notify state and local governments when he believes that their procedures violate federal law. And federal prosecutors can charge people who are found to have intimidated voters, a federal crime.