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April 13, 2007

Playing Politics With Voters' Rights: Update

By Jonah Goldman

This week,we have witnessed historic developments in uncovering the Bush Administration's political manipulation of the federal agencies charged with protecting the rights of all Americans to go to the polls.These revelations uncover unprecedented partisan decision making at both the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) and the Department of Justice.

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U.S. Attorneys fired because they refused to play politics and jeopardize their responsibilities to protect voters. Election experts' findings rejected because they dispel the myths that support restrictive voter ID laws. This week, we have witnessed historic developments in uncovering the Bush Administration's political manipulation of the federal agencies charged with protecting the rights of all Americans to go to the polls. These revelations uncover unprecedented partisan decision making at both the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) and the Department of Justice. As you know, the Lawyers' Committee has long been at the forefront of exposing the Administration's indifference to its duty to neutrally enforce federal voting protections. Executive Director of the Lawyers' Committee, Barbara Arnwine, voiced her outrage long ago over the EAC's decision to ignore experts' findings that fraud at the polling place is neither widespread nor pervasive. An honest release of this study would undercut the Administration's push to pass restrictive voter identification laws by undercutting the myth of voter fraud. As early as October 2006, Ms. Arnwine, a member of the EAC's Board of Advisors, demanded in a letter to the EAC the immediate release of the experts' findings to the public. Ms. Arnwine persisted in her efforts at the EAC's winter Board of Advisors meeting, putting forth a resolution calling for the findings to be released. The EAC refused, remaining silent as the U.S. House of Representatives passed a draconian voter identification and proof of citizenship requirement for all American voters citing fears that our system is corrupted by fraud at the polling place. Joe Rich, Director of the Lawyers' Committee's Fair Housing and Community Development Project, spent 37 years at the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice ending his tenure as the top career lawyer in the Voting Section. Joe left the Department after experiencing the Administration's injection of partisan politics into the justice system, testifying before Congress on the matter. Mr. Rich has been the leading voice in exposing how this Administration has politicized protections for American voters - trying to influence elections for their political allies at the expense of protecting historically disenfranchised voters. His outspoken exposure of these cynical policies has connected the Administration's efforts to imbue partisanship into voter protections with the Attorney General scandal. This past week has shown us that these are not discrete, isolated events. Rather, the Administration's abuse of power is far-reaching and systematic. The full extent to which the Administration plays politics with justice is as yet unknown. With Attorney General Gonzales scheduled to testify on Tuesday, the Lawyers' Committee urges you to remain informed. Click here to learn more about recent developments. Sincerely, Jonah H Goldman Director National Campaign for Fair Elections Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

Authors Bio:
Jonah Goldman is the Director of the National Campaign for Fair Elections.

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