Monday, December 05, 2005

Erosion of Our Voting Rights

The New York Times does a good job ripping into the Bush political appointees decision to overrule a team of DOJ staff attorneys consensus that the Tom DeLay, Texas redistricting plan violated the 1960's Voting Rights Act.

But The Washington Post's Dan Eggen reported last week that the Justice Department has been suppressing for nearly two years a 73-page memo in which six lawyers and two analysts in the voting rights section, including the group's chief lawyer, unanimously concluded that the Texas redistricting plan of 2003 illegally diluted the votes of blacks and Hispanics in order to ensure a Republican majority in the state's Congressional delegation. That plan was shoved through the Texas State Legislature by Representative Tom DeLay, who abused his federal position in doing so and is now facing criminal charges over how money was raised to support the redistricting.

The Post said the lawyers charged with analyzing voting rights violations were overruled by political appointees, and ordered not to discuss the case. The Justice Department then approved the Texas plan, which had been under review because the voting law requires states with a history of discriminatory election practices to get electoral map changes approved in advance.

The fact that the DOJ Staff attorneys unanimously found it to be a violation and were overruled by political appointees may lead to a re-examination of the redistricting plan. DOJ opinion carries a lot of weight with the judges and with the 73 page suppressed memo coming to light, it likely that new litigation will ensue over The Bush administrations egregious suppression of this memo.

The story goes on to examine the new voter laws in Georgia.

This outrageous case is only one way in which the Justice Department under John Ashcroft and now Alberto Gonzales has abused its law-enforcement mandate in the service of the Republican majority. Last month, the Post reported that political appointees also overruled voting rights lawyers who rejected a Georgia law requiring that voters without a picture ID buy one for $20 - at offices that were set up in only 59 of the state's 159 counties. The Justice Department falsely claimed that the decision to O.K. the law - which was little more than a modern-day version of a poll tax aimed at reducing turnout among poor minorities - was made with the concurrence of the career lawyers. A federal court later struck down the law, properly.

I have opposed this law in the past on this blog. I understand the need to ensure that only those who have the right to vote are allowed to vote. Voter fraud is a major impediment to democracy. BUT, the law does little to really ensure voter fraud does not happen.

First, the law that requires picture ID only affects voting at the polls. According to the persons in charge of running elections in Georgia, the State of Georgia has had no complaints of people showing up at the polls claiming to be someone they are not. Since this new law will not stop this kind of fraud (since it is not happening), it is just a poll tax.

Second, the law liberalizes absentee ballot voting. This, according the the State of Georgia election officials is where the voting fraud does occur.

So, the law basically makes it easier for fraud to occur where is already is occurring, and makes it harder for people to vote where fraud is not occurring. How is this a valid law?

The Bush administration has filed only three suits for violation of voting rights since taing office and has a dismal record for protecting the poor and minority vote in this nation. This is one of the many ways that Bush looses more and more credibility every day.

Fixing the Game

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