Alberto Gonzales resigned as Attorney General today after two and a half controversial years at the helm of the Department of Justice. The National Campaign for Fair Elections hopes Gonzales' departure, and the recent departures of Bradley Schlozman and Wan Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, marks the end of the era at the Department of Justice where politics trumped law enforcement- especially with regards to voting rights. President Bush's nominee to replace Mr. Gonzalez should respect the rule of law and bring accountability and stability back to the department.
While the departure of Gonzales is a positive development, it is only a step: Congress must continue to ask the tough questions necessary to get to the bottom of what has occurred within the Civil Rights Division of DoJ over the past six plus years. Hans von Spakovsky's nomination to the FEC is still before the Senate. Von Spakovsky, you may remember, was a key figure at Justice who, according to six former career employees in the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division, "played a major role in the implementation of policies that injected partisan political factors into decision-making . . . he was the point person for undermining the Civil Rights Division's mandate to protect voting rights."
In addition to von Spakovsky, the issues surrounding the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys have yet to be resolved. One constant theme that has surfaced in this controversy is that some of the U.S. Attorneys were fired at least in part because they were not aggressive enough in bringing bogus voter fraud cases. Fears of fraud at the polling place have been the fuel that has driven campaigns to pass discriminatory photo ID requirements for partisan political gain.
Gonzales' departure is clearly a step in the right direction. It is our hope the White House and the leaders in the Senate use this opportunity to restore confidence in our justice system. The country has a tremendous opportunity to fix the problems of the past. With a presidential election a little more than a year away, it is vital the Department of Justice is committed to protecting the rights of every eligible American voter.
Stay tuned, the Senate is sure to take up von Spakovsky's nomination in the fall, and we'll need your help opposing his nomination.
Director, National Campaign for Fair Elections
Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law