Hans von Spakvosky has “Crooked Justice” at NRO as a follow up to my PJ Media story yesterday about Merced County, California. Von Spakovsky shows that Eric Holder’s efforts to save Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act include approval of bailouts which do not meet the statutory requirements. Von Spakovsky:
Which brings us to New Hampshire. Though most jurisdictions subject to Section 5 are in the South, two townships and eight towns in New Hampshire were placed under Section 5 coverage in 1968. On November 15, 2012, New Hampshire filed a bailout complaint in federal court, requesting that its jurisdictions be relieved from coverage under Section 5.
But there’s one big problem for New Hampshire: For almost all of the 44 years that it has been covered under Section 5, New Hampshire has failed to comply with the law. The two townships and eight towns failed to submit for preclearance many voting changes they have made over that period. In fact, a November 18 internal DOJ memorandum sent by Chris Herren, chief of the voting section, to Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general for civil rights, confirms that “town officials uniformly indicated that they were not aware of their obligations under Section 5.” Clearly, then, they don’t meet the ten-year “clean record” criterion needed to qualify for bailout.
Think about that one! New Hampshire officials didn’t even know they were covered by the Voting Rights Act for the last 44 years. That’s what I’ve called the Granite State Free Ride. But to the DOJ Voting Section, it’s ok to give them a free ride, they’re northerners.
More from Von Spakovsky:
An internal Civil Rights Division report compiled on September 10, 2012, listed 90 unsubmitted voting changes made by New Hampshire jurisdictions subject to Section 5. This was, apparently, too many for the Civil Rights Division to be able to gloss over. So the department generated a “revised” list on September 27 that identified “only” 20 uncleared changes. Whether they’re 90 or 20, however, they render New Hampshire ineligible for bailout.
Ineligible for bailout means ineligible. Nevertheless, Eric Holder will both fight for bailout and then tell the Supreme Court how easy a bailout is – unless of course the Court is made aware of the games being played at the Justice Department.
Which takes us back to Merced County, California. The lawyers there are apparently adverse to the sunshine that my PJ Media story yesterday cast on their September 2012 bailout. They fired off a complaint to [Democrat activist posing as a] law professor Rick Hasen. Getting past the irrelevant gloss about how many meetings Merced had with Justice and the many pages of documents Merced sent Eric Holder, one is struck by the pathetic nature of the gripe. The lawyers at Merced just don’t know all the negative things being said about their bailout application – both inside and outside the Justice Department. These comments were documented in the internal DOJ memos obtained by PJ Media – documents that Merced does not possess. Merced’s other complaints have no merit either. For example:
“All of those submissions, except for the two mentioned above, concerned independent subjurisdictions within the borders of the County over which the County has no control.”
So what? Tell that to Shelby County that had no control over Calera, a town that made unprecleared changes thus rendering Shelby’s bailout impossible according to the District Court.
Then Merced claims that the non-compliance across the county was trivial and promptly corrected, thus justifying bailout. The documents obtained by PJ Media, however, demonstrate that minority contacts disagreed with bailout and so did law professor Joaquin Avila, the lawyer who brought the lawsuit against these “trivial” violations of Section 5.
It is true that a preclearance obligation can be retroactively satisfied, and then an unprecleared law goes into effect. For example, preclearance of a polling place change lets them use the new polling place. But that is a different question as to whether or not a jurisdiction that has blown off the law repeatedly is eventually eligible to enter the promised land of bailout. This isn’t a confessional. Absolution under the statute only goes so far.
Some of the sound and fury over Merced is small compared to the bombshell von Spakovsky dropped today aboout New Hampshire. I can’t wait until Justice Roberts and Kennedy learn that multiple New Hampshire election officials never even heard of Section 5, a law in effect for 44 years! That’s right, Section 5 is so “congruent and proportional” that towns subject to it didn’t even know about it, and never complied with it – a situation approved by DOJ officials in Washington for decades.
Yankees always seem to get a better deal, whether playing baseball or playing with the Voting Rights Act.
If the lawyers for Merced don’t understand that their bailout was part of a deliberate plan to save Section 5 (they use the word “conspiracy”; I didn’t) then they can be forgiven. Merced is a long way from Washington. But the fact is that everyone knows the bailout blitz is part of the plan to save Section 5. It was part of the plan when I worked at the DOJ and it remains so. And the knowledge is well spread outside of the DOJ. I spoke last week at Roger Williams School of Law last week on a panel with Project Vote’s Estelle Rogers. She called the bailout blitz the “longterm lifeboat designed to save Section 5.” Recognizing the problems we all see with this plan, she hedged, “it’s probably more of a short term lifeboat.” Maybe the lawyers for Merced can chat with Estelle to get the low-down.
The better question is whether Eric Holder doubles down and keeps up this ruse. It might be best to abandon the claim that bailout is so easy after the bailouts are revealed as a flimsy at best. And who knows what memos are the next to drop? This Voting Section doesn’t come before the Supreme Court with clean hands. The games played by previous Voting Section lawyers (and likely perjury) have been before the Justices once before in Miller v. Johnson. The bailout blitz may prove to be a bailout boomerang once this story is fully aired.