By Sarah N. Lynch and Kanishka Singh
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Dozens of U.S. Democratic lawmakers with the Congressional Black Caucus have urged the Justice Department to step up legal efforts to protect voting rights across the country, condemning what they say are “anti-democratic” Republican efforts to restrict ballot access for voters of color.
“These unabashedly racist and partisan attacks on our nation’s democratic principles must be forcefully condemned and expeditiously reversed,” the 44 members of the House of Representatives wrote in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on Monday.
Among the lawmakers who signed the letter were Congressional Black Caucus Chair Joyce Beatty and Representatives Ilhan Omar, Barbara Lee, James Clyburn and Ayanna Pressley.
“It is critical that you enforce every applicable law to ensure all citizens can vote”, they wrote in the letter. “No lawsuit is too trivial when it comes to the voting rights of citizens.”
President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats suffered twin legislative defeats last month in their push to toughen voting rights protections in the run-up to this November’s mid-term elections that will determine control of Congress in 2023.
Senate Republicans had blocked the Democrats’ move to advance the voting rights legislation toward passage. They had employed the decades old “filibuster” rule to stop the legislation, which requires the cooperation of at least 60 of the Senate’s 100 members to keep bills alive. The Senate currently is split 50-50.
Democrats have accused Republicans in various states of exploiting their majorities in state legislatures to craft electoral maps that diminish the clout of Black and other racial minority voters while maximizing the power of white voters.
Dozens of lawsuits have been filed in states around the country challenging congressional lines drawn as part of a once-a-decade cycle.
(This story corrects number of lawmakers who signed the letter to 44 from 41 in second paragraph)
(Reporting by Sarah Lynch in Washington, writing by Kanishka Singh; Editing by Aurora Ellis)