This an entry in a series of blogs to keep people informed on current election reform and voting rights issues in the news.
Featured Story of the Week:
Justice Department tugged to the right: Under Bush, the department has been tainted by politics, many say – Los Angeles Times
In the wake of the Department of Justice's firings revelations emerged of "partisan political priorities" that have plagued the DOJ since the start of the Bush Administration, according to a Los Angeles Times story Sunday. In addition to the two of the eight recently fired attorneys who purportedly lost their jobs for not actively pursuing voter fraud cases, former DOJ Civil Rights Division career officials are claiming to have felt similar pressures that ultimately had an impact on the voting rights of minority and other marginalized communities.
Last week, a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing unveiled astonishing changes by the former director of the Civil Rights Division's Voting Section as a result of the sweeping politicization of the Justice Department. At the hearing, President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Wade Henderson asserted that pursuit of voting discrimination cases have declined. Between 2001 and 2006, no cases were filed on behalf of Blacks or Native Americans as political appointees disregarded the Division's obligation to enforce the Voting Rights Act. In addition the DOJ approved clearly flawed local laws governing elections. In 2005, "the administration precleared Georgia's government-issued photo identification law despite numerous comment letters outlining the impact that the law would have on minority voters and over the recommendation of an objection from the majority of the staff who worked on it. The law was later found unconstitutional by a state and federal courts."
According to the testimony of Director of the Housing and Community Development Project at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Joe Rich, the roles of political appointees and civil servants have blurred since 2002 as politically motivated decisions overruled the recommendations of career staff, as occurred in the Georgia ID case. In the L.A. Times yesterday, Rich wrote an op-ed on the detrimental political dynamics of the Department, stating that 60% of attorneys in the Voting Section have transferred to other departments or quit, replacing civil rights experience with "fidelity to GOP interests."
The Justice Department was created to defend our rights as citizens - including the right to vote – fairly and impartially. To politicize what protects our rights is an injustice that disenfranchises underrepresented voters through the creation of ID laws, the approval of questionable redistricting plans, and perhaps most importantly, the abandonment of defense for the rights of marginalized citizens.
In Other News:
What 'voter fraud' means – Press-Telegram: Opinion
Ruben Navarrette - One of the most distressing aspects concerning the eight fired U.S. attorneys is what happened to David Iglesias of New Mexico, and what it tells us about how allegations of voter fraud have become a proxy for anxiety over illegal immigration.
According to the Center for Immigration Studies, "National exit polls indicated that House Republicans received about 30 percent of the Latino vote in 2006 - down 10 points from the 40 percent President Bush received in 2004, and the 38 percent GOP House members received in 2002."
Felon voting rights are on brink of passage - Gazette.net
ANNAPOLIS - Repeat felons would regain the right to vote under a bill that is nearing final passage in the House, following its approval in the Senate on Friday.
There is a disparity of minorities affected by the current felon voting law. "The disenfranchisement rate of African-American men is seven times the national average at 13%" - from Project Vote's Restoring Voting Rights to Former Felons.
Hoyer Plans Action on Bill in April: Democrats Aim to Keep GOP From Derailing Measure Again – Washington Post
The House will resume action on a D.C. voting rights bill in mid-April, with the majority party seeking new tactics to avoid the sort of Republican maneuvers that kept it from passing last week, a top Democrat said yesterday.
Visit DC Vote for more information on the D.C. voting rights bill.
Retry phone jamming case for sake of justice – Portsmouth Herald
The federal appeals court reversal of the conviction of a Republican Party official for his alleged role in the 2002 election day voter suppression scheme should not stop U.S. Attorney Thomas P. Colantuono from retrying a case that cuts to the heart of our electoral participation.
Read more on vote suppression tactics in this Demos report.
Same-day registration for voters receives OK – Des Moines Register
Iowans will be able to register to vote at the polls, instead of having to complete that 10 days before the election.
EDR in IA will increase turnout by 5%, according to a Demos report.
New Ohio evidence exposes apparently illegal 2004 recount activity by Hocking County's GOP Election Director, and a stinging complaint is filed in Cleveland – The Free Press
The Republican executive director of the Hocking County Board of Elections (BOE) may have written at least one memo outlining possibly illegal behavior during the scandal-ridden 2004 Ohio presidential recount. And an explosive five-count complaint has been filed by Ohio's new Secretary of State, Jennifer Brunner, against two GOP directors in Cuyahoga County. It is built in part on evidence gleaned from the federal report issued by Congressman John Conyers (D-MI) after the 2004 election, from stories broken at the Freepress.org website, and evidence gathered by grassroots voting rights activists in Cleveland.
Erin Ferns is a Research and Policy Analyst with Project Vote's Strategic Writing and Research Department (SWORD).