The Corner

There Really Is Something Rotten in the Justice Department

The Washington Times lead editorial today is about the Justice Department enabling voter fraud — just in time for the November elections. This is due to the Department’s refusal to enforce the part of Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act that requires states to remove ineligible voters from their registration rolls — people who have died or moved away, and felons who have not yet had their voting rights restored. The longer such names remain on a registration list, the greater the chances that a fraudulent vote will be cast in their names.

I reported in 2009 that the Obama administration had dismissed without explanation a lawsuit filed against Missouri Democratic secretary of state Robin Carnahan during the Bush administration over her failure to comply with this provision of the NVRA. This happened only a month after Carnahan announced she was running for the Senate. Besides the obvious political motivations, I know from sources inside the Civil Rights Division that the Obama political appointees have no intention of enforcing this provision. Former Voting Section lawyer Christian Adams confirmed this when he testified this summer before the U.S. Civil Rights Commission that Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Julie Fernandes told Voting Section staffers that the administration had “no interest in enforcing this provision of the law.”

Now that he is back in private practice, Adams has sent a series of warning letters to 16 states in obvious violation of the law. Justice should be suing them, but since they will not, Adams is taking advantage of the fact that there is a private right of action under the NVRA.

Adams’s letters are based in part on a report filed with Congress by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission in June 2009 on the impact of the NVRA. It includes voter-registration statistics from the states for 2006–2008. This data shows some amazing results. For example, Adams says, there must be a fountain of youth in states such as Maryland, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Tennessee: None of them removed a single dead voter during that two-year reporting period. Many counties in states such as Alabama and Rhode Island also show a similar miracle — no voters were removed from their voter rolls for having died. If you have any ailing family members, these are obviously the states they should move to quickly. There are also several states — South Dakota, Mississippi, Texas, Kentucky, and Indiana among them — with more registered voters than (according to the Census) people of voting age.

When I was in the Civil Rights Division, we actually investigated this problem and filed lawsuits against several states to enforce this provision of the NVRA  For trying to enforce federal law, we were labeled as “vote suppressors.” No, we just wanted to fairly enforce the law that Congress had passed, something the Clinton administration had failed to do. It did not file a single lawsuit in eight years to enforce this provision.

Hopefully, Adams will succeed in forcing these states to comply with federal law. It’s too bad that a private citizen has to carry out the responsibility of the Justice Department because it has failed to do so and, in fact, refuses to do so for ideological and political reasons that have nothing to do with the impartial administration of justice.

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