June 11 (UPI) -- U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Friday that the Justice Department will double its enforcement staff to investigate voting rights violations, calling the right to vote "the cornerstone" of democracy.
The top law enforcement official in the United States said the department's Civil Rights Division will increase its staff within the next 30 days to "ensure that we protect every qualified American seeking to participate in our democracy."
"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," Garland said.
He denounced some states' efforts -- largely heralded by Republican lawmakers -- to suppress the vote, including more stringent voter ID requirements and vote-by-mail restrictions.
"So far this year, at least 14 states have passed new laws that make it harder to vote," Garland said.
He said the Civil Rights Division will use provisions under the Voting Rights Act to ensure existing and new voting laws don't discriminate against certain classes of voters, including people of color.
"Without it, without the right to vote, none of the other rights follow," Garland added.
During a speech in Tulsa, Okla., earlier this month, President Joe Biden urged voting rights groups to begin "to redouble their efforts to register and educate voters." He asked Vice President Kamala Harris to lead the effort to protect voting rights.
Republicans said the laws make elections more secure, while Democrats say they aim to disenfranchise voters.
While the House has passed federal voter protections, the legislation is in peril in the Senate, where Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said he would break from his party to oppose it.