Thursday, April 19, 2007

The DOJ and Voter Suppression

If I cited to Scott Horton as frequently as I think I should, this blog would quickly become a mirror of his Harper's Magazine blog. I limit myself to the gems though, and that includes this post here, wherein he discusses a McClatchy article explaining how the Bush administration turned the Department of Justice into the legal arm of the Republican Party, and used it to suppress voter turnout in battleground states in key elections:

According to Joseph Rich, a former chief of the DOJ’s Voting Rights Section, “As more information becomes available about the administration's priority on combating alleged, but not well substantiated, voter fraud, the more apparent it is that its actions concerning voter ID laws are part of a partisan strategy to suppress the votes of poor and minority citizens.” The McClatchy account cites the following specific actions as parts of an overall, integrated campaign:
  • Approved Georgia and Arizona laws that tightened voter ID requirements. A federal judge tossed out the Georgia law as an unconstitutional infringement on the rights of poor voters, and a federal appeals court signaled its objections to the Arizona law on similar grounds last fall, but that litigation was delayed by the U.S. Supreme Court until after the election.
  • Issued advisory opinions that overstated a 2002 federal election law by asserting that it required states to disqualify new voting registrants if their identification didn't match that in computer databases, prompting at least three states to reject tens of thousands of applicants mistakenly.
  • Done little to enforce a provision of the 1993 National Voter Registration Act that requires state public assistance agencies to register voters. The inaction has contributed to a 50 percent decline in annual registrations at those agencies, to 1 million from 2 million.
  • Sued at least six states on grounds that they had too many people on their voter rolls. Some eligible voters were removed in the resulting purges.
Historically, the Justice Department has been an advocate of voter’s rights, working for decades to overturn Jim Crow legislation and practices that denied access to the polls to minority groups. This study shows that under Alberto Gonzales, those practices were reversed, and the Department instead began advocating typical Jim Crow legislation that it had historically opposed. The constituencies targeted are tied together by a single common thread: a tendency to support Democratic candidates.

If you find this unbelievable, get in line. But it's true. The purging of eight U.S. Attorneys occurred because they could not reliably be counted on to pursue investigations of Democratic politicians and officials, but that's only the tip of the iceberg. Or more accurately, the final piece of the puzzle that's allowed us to put it all together. But the theme is the same, as this article makes clear: the Department of Justice was subverted (or more accurately, perverted) to serve the political needs of the Bush administration and the Republican Party. This was done deliberately by Rove and his underlings, and President Bush either knew what was happening, or is the stupidest President in U.S. history (neither is unbelievable.) On this note, I say thank God for liberal bloggers like Josh Marshall and his crew, who immediately smelled a rat when the firings became public, and who helped to incite blogger outrage to such a degree that the major media outlets were forced to pay attention even when they didn't want to. Unfortunately, I'm not quite sure that the average American understands how egregious this is. I'll Jonathan Chait explain it:

It would be very easy to overreact to all these things and conclude that our democracy is imperiled or that Republicans are wannabe Putins. But almost nobody seems to be overreacting.

Most people are under-reacting. Allowing the security apparatus of the state to help tilt elections is an extremely grave precedent. When the line of acceptable behavior can be moved without much protest, it often can be moved further the next time.

No, we're not becoming Russia. But becoming just a little bit like Russia still ought to be considered a major scandal.

Yeah, it ought to be. And I think those Democrats who've spent the day grilling Gonzalez will-with the help of liberal bloggers and a reluctant media-make sure that it is.

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