Wednesday, January 26, 2005
PROTECT VOTING RIGHTS:
HELP US STOP APPROVAL OF ALBERTO GONZALES FOR ATTORNEY GENERAL
Please call on your own Senators to object to the nomination of Alberto Gonzales for Attorney General. The Judiciary Committee just voted: 10 yeas and 8 nays on the Gonzales nomination. The votes were on party lines, with 10 Republicans and 8 Democrats on the committee. The recommendation goes to the Senate floor: it could be either today or in the next few days.
Tell your Senators that we need an Attorney General with a commitment to Civil Rights and Voting Rights. Call 1-800-839-5276 or 1-877-762-8762 connecting all offices.
In the last five years, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has DECREASED its Civil Rights enforcement dramatically. While the number of civil rights complaints has remained constant, at about 12,000 per year for the last five years, the number of defendants charged with criminal violations of the nation's civil rights laws has dropped by close to 50%, from 159 in 1999 to 84 in 2003.
When it comes to the Civil Rights Division's Voting Section, which has the historic mission of protecting voting rights, it is clear that the Department of Justice
- Has failed to address allegations of voting irregularities and is not properly documenting them;
- Has replaced the protection of voting rights with the potentially discriminatory advancement of so-called "voter integrity"; and
- Has been litigating to limit the private right of action by individual citizens to enforce federal statutes guaranteeing voting rights.
J. Gerald Hebert, a former chief of the DOJ's Voting Section, said "This is the first time in history the Justice Department has gone to court to side AGAINST voters who are trying to enforce their right to vote. I think this law will mean very little if the rights of American voters have to depend on this Justice Department." It is crucial that the new Attorney General demonstrate a strong commitment to fixing the damage done to voting rights under Attorney General Ashcroft. Therefore we call on the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to object to the nomination of Alberto Gonzales on the grounds that he has no program to resurrect the DOJ's mission to protect voting rights.
A legitimate candidate for the office of US Attorney General must:
- Present a clear plan to adopt the recommendations of the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, "DOJ Activities To Address Past Voting Irregularities" (GAO-04-1041R).
- Reverse the current Voting Section emphasis on voter "integrity" and focus on voter access.
- Return to its long standing, aggressive support of private suits to fight discrimination.
On October 14, 2004, Representatives John Conyers and Henry Waxman wrote to Attorney General John Ashcroft to express concerns about the GAO findings that:
- "The Voting Section does not have a reliable method to consistently record and document telephone calls received alleging voting irregularities";
- "The Voting Section does not routinely track its election monitoring activities through the Interactive Case Management (ICM) System, the Justice Department's formal process for tracking and managing work activities";
- "The Justice Department, due to its lack of specific information about allegations of voting irregularities, and Justice Department actions taken to address them, is unable to provide the public and Congress with clear information concerning election procedures."
Since 2000, John Ashcroft has changed the original mission of the Voting Section from increasing voter access to limiting voter fraud in the name of "voter integrity." According to Stanford Law Professor Pamela S. Karlan, voter integrity is "one of those great euphemisms . . . By and large, it's been targeted at minority voters." The architects of the current Voting Section voter integrity programs are among the same people who have developed GOP Ballot Security programs since the 1960s to suppress minority voters through intimidation tactics, including voter challenges in polling places. Hans A. von Spakovsky, chief counsel to Assistant Attorney General Acosta, has said "that voting integrity will remain a focus for the Justice Department, and that voter access might best be left to volunteers." 
The well developed voter suppression tactics of the GOP have become part of DOJ Civil Rights enforcement.
In court battles, pre-election 2004, over how provisional ballots would be counted and the legalities of voter challenges at the polls, Bush administration lawyers argued that individual voters may not sue over violations of the voting rights set out in the Help America Vote Act. The DOJ argued, instead, that only the Attorney General has power to bring lawsuits to enforce the provisions of the 2002 law--provisions that include a requirement that states provide "uniform and nondiscriminatory" voting systems, and that they give provisional ballots to those who say they have registered but whose names do not appear on the rolls. In a 1969 US Supreme Court Ruling on enforcement of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Justices said "the achievement of the act's laudable goal would be severely hampered ... if each citizen were required to depend solely on litigation instituted at the discretion of the attorney general."
Please let your Senators and the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee know that we hold the protection of voting rights sacred among the duties of the DOJ. Call the Senators and tell them we want an Attorney General who is committed to the original mission of the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division.
 "Civil Rights Enforcement By Bush Administration Lags," Transactional Records Clearinghouse, 2004,
 David G. Savage and Richard B. Schmitt, "Bush Seeks Limit to Suits Over Voting Rights," Los Angeles Times, 29 October 2004,
 Jeffrey Toobin, "Poll Position," The New Yorker, 20 September 2004,
Chandler Davidson, Tanya Dunlap, Gale Kenny, and Benjamin Wise, REPUBLICAN BALLOT SECURITY PROGRAMS: VOTE PROTECTION OR MINORITY VOTE SUPPRESSION OR BOTH? A REPORT TO THE CENTER FOR VOTING RIGHTS PROTECTION, SEPTEMBER 2004,
 Savage and Schmitt, "Bush Seeks Limit to Suits Over Voting Rights".