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Gonzales Steps Down, Leaving a Trail of Questions

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Weekly Voting Rights News Update

This an entry in a series of blogs to keep people informed on current election reform and voting rights issues in the news.

Featured Stories of the Week:

Embattled Attorney General Resigns - New York Times

Opinion: A Rigged Report on U.S. Voting?  - Washington Post

Head of civil rights division resigns from Justice Department - The National Law Journal, Associated Press

I'd given up on Gonzales leaving, Bogden says: Ousted U.S. attorney reveals more, tells of     losing faith in Justice - Las Vegas Sun


Alberto Gonzales announced his resignation as U.S. attorney general Monday. Effective Sept. 17, his departure follows numerous resignations in recent weeks, further fueling demands for more answers surrounding the politicization of the Justice Department and the quest for a "nonpolitical successor."

"Alberto Gonzales was never the right man for this job," said Senator Harry Reid, D-Nevada in this New York Times report. "He lacked independence, he lacked judgment and he lacked the spine to say 'no' to Karl Rove."

Rove, who recently stepped down from being President Bush's political adviser, was subpoenaed by the U.S. Senate in July as part of an investigation on the controversial firings of eight federal prosecutors. However, he was ordered by President Bush not to testify due to "executive privilege." Rove is known to be a driving force behind prosecutions of election law violations, namely voter fraud, which purportedly played a role in the attorney dismissals.

Tova Wang, one of two authors hired to write a report on voter fraud and intimidation for the Election Assistance Commission, was recently released from a gag order to speak about her findings in this Washington Post opinion piece. The EAC released a product that "completely stood our own work on its head," by calling voter fraud a matter of "considerable debate" rather than a "greatly exaggerated" issue, which Wang and her Republican co-author Joe Serebrov found.

"We also raised questions about the way the Justice Department was handling complaints of fraud and intimidations. The commission excised all references to the department that might be construed as critical - or that Justice officials later took issue with."

Moreover, Wang pointed out that "during the time the commission was holding our draft, claims about voter fraud and efforts to advance the cause of strict voter identification laws were at a fever pitch in Congress and the states. And it has been reported that some U.S. attorneys were being fired because they failed to pursue weakly supported voter fraud cases without sufficient zeal."

"'Too many questions have remained unanswered, too many civil rights laws have not been enforced and too many officials have resigned to evade the accountability that is to come for the disastrously flawed policies of this administration,'" said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding another DOJ resignation in this Associated  Press/National Law Journal article Monday.

The article focused on the August 23 resignation of Assistant Attorney General Wan J. Kim, who quickly followed the resignation of former voting rights chief, Bradley Schlozman.  "In June, Kim testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the transfer of three minority female lawyers from his office's voting rights sections," a move directed by Schlozman. During his testimony, Kim expressed concern about the move "and said remarks by Schlozman that appeared to question the women's patriotism 'were intemperate and inopportune.'" These descriptions closely resemble the recent handling of dismissals in the Justice Department, where loyalty is rewarded "over all else," said former voting section chief, Joe Rich in March.

"Revelations about the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys who were seen by the administration as insufficiently political in their investigations and prosecutions opened up an investigation that has begun to confirm a broad scheme to politicize the Justice Department's work in the area of voting rights - a scheme apparently designed by Rove to suppress turnout by minorities and other who might vote Democratic," blogged John Nichols for the Nation.

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