Politics & Policy

Sensenbrenner on Camera Denies Text of Own Voter Law

Wisconsin Republican seeks to restore racial categories, empower Holder DOJ

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R., Wisc.) told constituents at Wisconsin town halls that voting-rights legislation he is sponsoring does not exclude white voters from the protection of the Voting Rights Act. Sensenbrenner also says he is proud to work with the ACLU and far-left groups to pass the legislation that would resurrect Attorney General Eric Holder’s powers to block state election laws such as voter ID or citizenship verification. 

In a video from Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe, Sensenbrenner also accused Texas and Georgia Republicans of trying to stop minorities from voting.

Advocates of federal preclearance powers over state elections claim that victims of Holder’s abuse can always go to court to undo the damage. South Carolina found out the hard way that the price for reversing an abusive objection can be millions of dollars. Sensenbrenner’s legislation resurrects that abuse, and he doesn’t appear to understand it.

“The good part about the Voting Rights Act modernization is that I got a provision in there that basically gets Eric Holder out of going after photo ID laws,” the 18-term Badger State congressman claims on the undercover video.

O’Keefe challenged Sensenbrenner’s false characterization.  “But the law can still be used to block photo ID in places like Texas and South Carolina,” he said in the Project Veritas video. “It only exempts photo ID from counting against the number of strikes a state gets, but the bill could still be used by Holder to put pressure on states, right?”

“It can’t be,” Sensenbrenner responds in the video. 

It is true that, under Sensenbrenner’s bill, a court finding against a voter-ID law cannot count toward the five infractions that would put a state back under federal receivership. But civil-rights groups would be eager to litigate to judgment all of the infractions necessary to place a state back under the DOJ boot. 

Worse, Sensenbrenner’s bill would plainly give the DOJ renewed power to block any election-integrity law in any covered jurisdiction. This includes voter ID and laws requiring voters to prove they are citizens. The Holder Justice Department has been quick to interfere in states seeking to remove non-citizens from the rolls, as happened in Florida before the 2012 election and Georgia in 2009.

No matter what Sensenbrenner might say in his townhall meetings, his bill returns massive federal power to the Justice Department to make American elections less secure.

The bill does far more than simply reverse the Shelby County decision. It also imposes burdensome and impractical federal mandates on every state and local election official. For example, election officials will be required to post data about poll workers 30 days before an election, including the race of all voters in a precinct. If the election officials fail to post, naturally Sensenbrenner’s bill gives plaintiffs the right to sue. For good measure, any finding that election officials were liable for a failure-to-post violation will count against the jurisdiction and help recapture that jurisdiction for federal preclearance mandates.

In other words, Sensenbrenner has written a dream bill for Democrat trial lawyers and activist groups fighting election-integrity laws.

Strangely, in the Project Veritas video, Sensenbrenner said he hoped President Obama would veto his bill. That’s an odd position for any lawmaker to take, but especially a Republican who is helping civil-rights groups resurrect power for a highly activist Democratic Justice Department. Given the massive activation of federal power contained in Sensenbrenner’s bill, it’s a safe bet President Obama will sign the bill, despite Sensenbrenner’s perverse veto wish.

J. Christian Adams is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Injustice: Exposing the Racial Agenda of the Obama Justice Department (Regnery, 2011), and former attorney in the Justice Department Voting Section.

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