Sunday, June 24, 2007

The attorney general scandal is becoming a voting rights scandal

What originally appeared to be a case of executive arrogance is rapidly becoming a scandal about voter suppression and outright racism in the Justice Department.

Originally, reports that the Patriot Act had been rewritten to allow A.G. Gonzales to appoint new U.S. Attorneys without ever subjecting them to Senate approval looked like the Bush administration simply grabbing more power. Most believed that he only wanted to appoint a group of loyalists throughout the agency and purge anyone who showed a sense of independence. So we had lots of arguments about USA's "serving at the pleasure of the president" and too many editorials suggesting the scandal was overblown.

That would've been bad enough. An agency like the Justice Department has to be seen as fair and non-partisan in it's enforcement of the nation's laws.

But in time after time, starting with Iglesias' firing for refusing to pursue a weak case against Democrats, through the USA Spakovsky shutting down investigations of voter discrimination, to the appointment of Karl Rove's hatchet man, Tim Griffin, the common denominator is always voter suppression.

Specifically, the Justice Department has been actively involved in voter "caging" and discrimination, particularly in the states of Florida and Ohio.

The latest report implicates yet another U.S. Attorney in an attempt to strip African Americans of their right to vote:

Four days before the 2004 election, the Justice Department’s civil rights chief sent an unusual letter to a federal judge in Ohio who was weighing whether to let Republicans challenge the credentials of 23,000 mostly African-American voters.

The case was triggered by allegations that Republicans had sent a mass mailing to mostly Democratic-leaning minorities and used undeliverable letters to compile a list of voters potentially vulnerable to eligibility challenges.

This time, the culprit was Alex Acosta, then Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, now USA for the Southern District of Florida. In his official capacity, he submitted a letter to the judge hearing the case, arguing:
that it would "undermine" the enforcement of state and federal election laws if citizens could not challenge voters’ credentials.

In other words the head of the Civil Rights division was openly supporting a partisan challenge against tens of thousands of minority voters.

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