The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties convenes today to hold an oversight hearing on the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division of the U. S. Department of Justice. Given the overwhelming evidence of politicization and obstruction of voting rights in the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division over the past six years, these hearings should and must deliver a vital opportunity to enter into the public record the transgressions of the current administration, as well as begin the process of amending the damage done to the department and to minority voting rights.
The Center for American Progress and the Citizens’ Commission on Civil Rights released a joint report earlier this year, “The Erosion of Rights,” which detailed the systematic weakening and politicization of the Department of Justice under the Bush administration. The report found that the Voting section was among the greatest targets and subsequently one of the most compromised sections of the Department.
Non-partisan experts in voting law committed to upholding and enforcing voting laws have been systematically replaced and overruled by unqualified, brazenly partisan-motivated political appointees. The effects of this shift in power have been felt in lax voter violation enforcement and alleged involvement in voter discrimination.
The Center for American Progress and Citizens’ Commission on Civil Rights’ joint report details three such instances of partisan appointees overruling career department attorneys who recommended rejecting state measures that would discriminate against voters. Political appointees in the Voting section were key in guaranteeing controversial redistricting changes in Mississippi and Texas, whether by legal default or by actually clearing the plan for implementation. The Voting Section also approved a discriminatory Georgia law requiring photo ID at the polls, despite records of the measure’s sponsor in the state senate making racist comments about its intent.
The compromised Voting section has also failed to prosecute a large majority of specific acts of disenfranchisement or enforce voter protection laws such as the Help America Vote Act, passed in 2001 after the controversial 2000 presidential election.
All of these gross transgressions against the promised equality of our democracy must be investigated and exposed. Tuesday’s hearings should provide the spotlight to begin probing the vast politicization that has engulfed the Justice Department’s Voting Section under the Bush administration.
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