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Fired US Attorney Details GOP Effort to "Cage" Votes in New Mexico in 2004

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The Justice Department issued a directive to every US attorney in the country to find and prosecute cases of voter fraud in their states during the height of hotly contested elections in 2002, 2004, and 2006, even though evidence of such abuses was extremely thin or non-existent, a former federal prosecutor says in a new book.

David Iglesias, the former US attorney for New Mexico, recalled receiving an email in late summer 2002 from the Department of Justice suggesting "in no uncertain terms" that US attorneys should immediately begin working with local and state election officials "to offer whatever assistance we could in investigating and prosecuting voter fraud cases," Iglesias writes in his forthcoming click here In Justice: Inside the Scandal that Rocked the Bush Administration, an early copy of which I obtained last week. The book is scheduled to be published in June.

Iglesias was one of nine US attorneys who were fired in December 2006 for reasons that appear to be based entirely on partisan politics. His name was added to a list of US attorneys selected for dismissal on Election Day in November 2006.

Earlier this month, Congress filed a civil lawsuit against Joshua Bolten, President Bush's chief of staff, and Harriet Miers, the former White House counsel, in an attempt to compel them to testify before Congress about the White House's role in the US attorney firings and to turn over documents to a congressional committee. Miers and Bolten were subpoenaed by Congress to testify last year but Bush refused to allow their testimonies citing executive privilege. Last month, Congress held Miers and Bolten in contempt for failing to respond to the subpoenas. Attorney General Michael Mukasey said he would not convene a federal grand jury to consider the contempt charges. Congress sued the White House officials shortly thereafter.

In a chapter titled "Caged," Iglesias recounts how the Department of Justice aggressively pushed him and other US attorneys to prosecute voter fraud cases, an issue the former US attorney says the DOJ became unusually obsessed with.

"The e-mail imperatives came again in 2004 and 2006, by which time I had learned that far from being standard operating procedure for the Justice Department, the emphasis on voter irregularities was unique to the Bush administration," Iglesias says.

Iglesias says that Republican officials in his state were far less interested in election reforms and more intent on suppressing votes.

"But there was a more sinister reading to such urgent calls for reform, not to mention the Justice Department's strident insistence on harvesting a bumper crop of voter fraud prosecutions. That implication is summed up in a single word: caging."

"Not only did the [Bush] administration stoop to such seamy expedients to press its agenda in 2004," Iglesias wrote. "It had the full might and authority of the federal government and its prosecutorial powers to accomplish its ends."

Vote caging is an illegal tactic to suppress minorities from voting by having their names purged from voter rolls when they fail to respond to registered mail sent to their homes. The Republican National Committee signed a consent decree in 1986 stating they would not engage in the practice after they were caught suppressing votes in 1981 and 1986. Last July, in a letter to then Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) and Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) said, "caging is a reprehensible voter suppression tactic, and it may also violate federal law and the terms of applicable judicially enforceable consent decrees." Senators Rockefeller (D-West Virginia) and Whitehouse have called for a Justice Department probe into the practice, which has not been initiated thus far.

Documents released last year showed that Republican operatives engaged in a widespread effort to "cage" votes during the 2004 presidential election in battleground states, such as New Mexico, Nevada, Florida, and Ohio, where George W. Bush was trailing his Democratic challenger, Senator John Kerry.

The efforts to purge voters from registration rolls were spearheaded by Tim Griffin, a former Republican National Committee opposition researcher and close friend of Karl Rove. Griffin resigned from his post as interim US attorney for Little Rock Arkansas when details of his involvement in vote caging were reported. Griffin's predecessor at the US attorney's office, Bud Cummins, was one of the nine US attorneys forced to resign. Coddy Johnson was another Republican operative involved in the effort to cage votes during the 2004 presidential election. Johnson worked as the national field director of Bush's 2004 campaign and spent time in the White House as an associate director of political affairs, working under Karl Rove. Johnson's father was Bush's college roommate at Yale.

Last week, Iglesias testified before the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration probing the "myth" of in-person voter fraud and whether it leads to the disenfranchisement of individual voters.

During his testimony, Iglesias told the panel that he established an election fraud task force in September 2004 and spent more than two months probing claims of widespread voter fraud in his state.

"After examining the evidence, and in conjunction with the Justice Department Election Crimes Unit and the FBI, I could not find any cases I could prosecute beyond a reasonable doubt," Iglesias told the Senate committee last week. "Accordingly, I did not authorize any voter fraud related prosecutions."

There is no concrete evidence of systemic voter fraud in the United States. Many election integrity experts believe claims of voter fraud are a ploy by Republicans to suppress minorities and poor people from voting.

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Jason Leopold is Deputy Managing Editor of Truthout.org and the founding editor of the online investigative news magazine The Public Record, http://www.pubrecord.org. He is the author of the National Bestseller, "News Junkie," a memoir. Visit (more...)
 

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