“The eyes of the nation are once again on Ohio in the Nov. 4 election in this critical election,” Brown and the congressional Democrats said in a letter sent to Mukasey. “We have confidence in the work that is being done by Ohio’s bipartisan group of election officials and by Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner. We respectfully request that you refrain from taking any action absent more compelling evidence than partisan political requests.
“According to testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last year, Republican members of Congress exerted pressure on the Justice Department two years ago to bring an indictment in a public corruption case against Democratic officials before the November election so as to influence its outcome. To his credit, the U.S. Attorney in question resisted this pressure. You should do no less."
In 2004, Republican-controlled Ohio was one state where voters complained that their votes cast on electronic voting machines for Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate, were recorded for Bush.
Earlier this week, Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, sent a letter to Mukasey calling for a wide-ranging probe in the battleground state of Ohio to force 200,000 new voters to either verify the information on their registration forms or cast provisional ballots, which are often thrown out after the voter leaves the polling place.
When Mukasey didn’t respond to Boehner’s query the Republican lawmaker contacted President George W. Bush directly.
“Unless action is taken by the [Justice] Department immediately, thousands, if not tens or hundreds of thousands of names whose information has not been verified through the [Help America Vote Act] procedures mandated by Congress will remain on the voter rolls during the Nov. 4 election. …
“There is a significant risk if not a certainty, that unlawful votes will be cast and counted. Given the Election Day is less than two weeks away, immediate action by the Department is not only warranted, but also crucial," Boehner said in a letter to Bush.
On Friday, The Public Record reported that Bush took the unprecedented step of asking his Attorney General to launch an investigation.
At issue is a federal law – the Help America Vote Act, which was passed when Republicans dominated Congress in 2002 – that requires states to verify the eligibility of voters.
The Ohio Republican Party filed a lawsuit last month against Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, claiming that voter registration information for hundreds of thousands of new voters did not match official government data, such as Social Security records and driver’s licenses.
But in court filings, GOP officials did not provide documentary evidence to back up those claims. Voting advocates also note that many mismatches can be irrelevant, such as the use of a middle name in one form but not another or a typographical error in a database.
Independent studies have shown that phony registrations rarely result in illegally cast ballots because there are so many other safeguards built into the system.
For instance, from October 2002 to September 2005, a total of 70 people were convicted for federal election related crimes, according to figures compiled by the New York Times last year. Only 18 of those were for ineligible voting. In recent years, federal prosecutors reached similar conclusions despite pressure from the Bush administration to lodge “election fraud” charges against voter registration groups seen as bringing more Democratic voters into the democratic process.
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s ruling that had favored the Republicans. The high court said lawsuits “brought by a private litigant" could not be used to force states to abide by federal laws.
The Supreme Court’s decision vacated a temporary restraining order that had directed the Secretary to institute additional procedures under Section 303 of HAVA.
Boehner then sought, via the letter to Bush, to have Mukasey force Brunner to comply with HAVA’s requirements.
In a letter to Mukasey, Brown and U.S. Representatives Marcy Kaptur, Tim Ryan, Zack T. Space, Betty Sutton, and Charles Wilson, said, “we are concerned that complaints about the administration of HAVA in Ohio are designed to reduce the number of legitimate votes that are cast and counted in our state.”