Thoughts from a Yellow Dog Democrat living in Olympia, in the great BLUE state of Washington

I am a liberal because it is the political philosophy of freedom and equality. And I am a progressive because it is the political path to a better future. And I am a Democrat because it is the political party that believes in freedom, equality and progress. -- Digby

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Voter Rights Are The Real Reason

The dirty secret behind the US Attorney firings is election manipulation.

Since 2005, Bush has appointed at least three U.S. attorneys who had worked in the Justice Department's civil rights division when it was rolling back longstanding voting-rights policies aimed at protecting predominantly poor, minority voters.

Another newly installed U.S. attorney, Tim Griffin in Little Rock, Ark., was accused of participating in efforts to suppress Democratic votes in Florida during the 2004 presidential election while he was a research director for the Republican National Committee.

The replacement of the U.S. attorneys and the so-called voter-fraud campaign indicates that the Bush administration is using its law enforcement powers for partisan political purposes.

Bush said he's heard complaints from Republicans about some U.S. attorneys' "lack of vigorous prosecution of election fraud cases," and administration e-mails have shown that Rove and other White House officials were involved in the dismissals and in selecting a Rove aide to replace one of the U.S. attorneys.

Last April, Rove gave a speech in Washington to the Republican National Lawyers Association. He ticked off 11 states that he said could be pivotal in the 2008 elections. Bush has appointed new U.S. attorneys in ten of them since 2005: here in Washington, but also in Florida, Colorado, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Arkansas, Michigan, Nevada and New Mexico. Surprise, surprise.

Rove thanked the audience for "all that you are doing in those hot spots around the country to ensure that the integrity of the ballot is protected." He added, "A lot in American politics is up for grabs."

The Justice Department's civil rights division supported a Georgia voter identification law that a court later said discriminated against poor, minority voters. It also declined to oppose an unusual Texas redistricting plan that helped expand the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. That plan was partially reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court. Bradley Schlozman, who was the civil rights division's deputy chief, agreed in 2005 to reverse the career staff's recommendations to challenge a Georgia law that would have required voters to pay $20 for photo IDs and in some cases travel as far as 30 miles to obtain the ID card. A federal judge threw out the Georgia law, calling it an unconstitutional, Jim Crow-era poll tax.

Former voting rights section chief Joseph Rich, in testimony to a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing this week, described the gutting of the voting rights enforcement division. He said that 20 of the 35 attorneys in the voting rights section have been transferred to other jobs or have left their jobs since April 2005 and a staff of 26 civil rights analysts who reviewed state laws for discrimination has been slashed to 10.

During the tenure of Alex Acosta, who served as the division chief from the fall of 2003 until he was named interim U.S. attorney in Miami in the summer of 2005, the department didn't file a single suit protecting the votes of African-Americans. In a similar time period, the Clinton administration filed six such cases. The Justice Department has only tried 35 Title VII employment discrimination cases since 2001, in contrast to the 92 cases brought during the Clinton administration. The Housing and Civil Enforcement section's cases dropped from 53 in 2001 to 31 in 2006, he added, with a 60% dip in the number of race-related cases.

During this week's House judiciary subcommittee hearing, we heard testimony recounting lapses in the division's enforcement. A Citizens Commission on Civil Rights report found that "the enforcement record of the voting section during the Bush administration indicates this traditional priority has been downgraded significantly, if not effectively ignored."

Congressman Jerry Nadler, D-NY, stated, "The more stringent requirements you put on voting in order to get rid of alleged voter fraud, the more you're cutting down on legitimate people voting."

Bush administration officials have said that no single reason led to the firings of the eight U.S. attorneys. But two of those ousted have a different viewpoint:

Former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias of New Mexico has said he thought that "the
voter fraud issue was the foundation" for his firing and complaints about his
failure to pursue Democrats was "the icing on the cake."

John McKay, the
ousted U.S. attorney for western Washington State, looked into allegations of
voter fraud against Democrats during our governor's race in 2004. He said that
later, when top Bush aides interviewed him for a federal judgeship, he was asked
to respond to criticism of his inquiry in which no charges were brought. He
didn't get the judgeship.

Bud Cummins, the U.S. attorney in Arkansas who was fired, said he had "serious doubts" that any U.S. attorney was failing to aggressively pursue voter fraud.

"What they're responding to is party chairmen and activists who from the beginning of time go around paranoid that the other party is stealing the election," Cummins said. "It sounds like to me that they were merely responding to a lot of general carping from the party, who had higher expectations once the Republican appointees filled these posts that there would be a lot of voting fraud investigations. Their expectations were unrealistic."

Tim Griffin, Cummins replacement, was a Rove protégé and a former Republican National Committee research director. He was accused of being part of an attempt to wipe likely Democratic voters off the rolls in Florida in 2004 if they were homeless or military personnel.

Our voter rights are the real underlying cause of the USA purge. They won't need the Supreme Court next time.

UPDATE 3-26:

Brad Blog has a great post on this same subject.

UPDATE 3-30:

LA Times has a great piece written by Joseph Rich on this topic. Rich was formerly the cielf of the voting section of the the Justice Department's civil rights division. He reports from his personal experience that voter suppression is the real agenda.

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  • At 9:02 AM , Blogger W2E said...

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    Michael S.


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