Doing the DOJ's Job for Them: Demanding Valid Voter Rolls Before November
As the saying goes: if you want a job done right, you have to do it yourself. If Americans don’t want dead and ineligible felons participating in elections, they will have to clean up the mess themselves, as Attorney General Eric Holder won’t do his job by enforcing the integrity protections in the “Motor Voter” law passed in 1993.
Motor Voter struck an important balance -- it sought to increase voter registration, as well as ensure voter integrity. Welfare offices and motor vehicle offices became voter registration centers. But the law also required states to conduct list maintenance to ensure ineligible names don’t pollute the voting rolls. Dead people, ineligible felons, and people who moved away must be removed from the rolls by state election officials.
The attorney general was given the power to enforce both provisions of Motor Voter, yet Eric Holder is only interested in enforcing one. This attorney general simply won’t do his job and enforce the list integrity requirements.
During the Bush administration, the Justice Department enforced both Section 7 (the welfare office registration provisions) as well as Section 8 (the list integrity provisions). Section 7 cases were investigated and brought against multiple states, including Illinois and Arizona. Section 8 cases were investigated and brought against multiple states, like Missouri and Maine.
The decision of the Holder DOJ to ignore the integrity provisions of Section 8 is deliberate and corrupt. In November 2009, political appointee Julie Fernandes told the entire assembled DOJ Voting Section that the Obama administration would not enforce the list maintenance provisions of Section 8. Section 8 “doesn’t have anything to do with increasing minority turnout,” Fernandes said. “We don’t have any interest in enforcing that part of the law.” End of story.
At the same time, Fernandes stressed that the DOJ would vigorously enforce the welfare agency registration provisions of Section 7.
She made these lawless instructions in front of me and dozens of other shocked Voting Section lawyers. The DOJ has never once denied that Fernandes gave these instructions, nor has the DOJ countermanded them.
This lawless policy couldn’t have a partisan motivation, could it?
Now, Americans are left to clean up the voter rolls on their own. Thankfully, Motor Voter provides a private right of action -- that means private citizens can bring lawsuits against states and voter registrars who are allowing dead and ineligible voters to taint the voter rolls.
Americans are used to getting the job done themselves. Reliance on government tends to disappoint.
Using this private right of action, I have given sixteen states the legal notice required to alert them that they have violated Section 8 of Motor Voter. I am working with private citizens across the nation to help ensure that the elections in November aren’t plagued by ineligible voters. If the states don’t fix the problem, private lawsuits may follow. The sixteen notice letters rely on publicly available data and describe problems in the voter rolls.
Every two years, states must report to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) information about their voter rolls. The latest report is troubling. South Dakota, Texas, Mississippi, Kentucky and Indiana report in excess of a dozen counties with more registered voters than living people old enough to vote. Having more voters than living humans tells you something is wrong. In West Virginia, one county reported 113% of the voting age population was registered to vote. Baltimore, Maryland, reported 104% of voting age citizens on the rolls. Iowa and North Carolina also reported counties with more voters than living citizens of voting age.
All of these states received a notice letter.
Ponce de Leon wasted his time looking for the fountain of youth in Florida -- he should have gone to Maryland, Arkansas, Massachusetts, Oregon, or Tennessee. These states report that they didn’t remove a single dead voter from 2006 to 2008. Some of the dead registered voters were resurrected on election day and cast ballots.
These states also received a notice letter.
Many counties in other states also have amazing longevity. Large numbers of counties in Alabama, Rhode Island, and Virginia report removing no dead voters in two years. Whatever they are drinking there, I'd like some quick.
Overall, all sixteen of these states received notice from me that they have violated Section 8 of Motor Voter because they have failed to maintain the integrity of their voting rolls. In the next 20 days, they will have the opportunity to explain why the data they reported to the EAC are wrong, or what has changed in the meantime. I will report on the responses here.
But if they are inadequate, private citizens may do what the DOJ refuses to: bring lawsuits to clean up the voter rolls before November 2, 2010.
Enforcement of Section 8 has become a bogeyman among some activist groups. They claim enforcement of the law is a sinister plot to deny the vote to eligible voters. Unquestionably, the hostility of Julie Fernandes originates in this fable. They crow that those concerned about integrity are engaged in “voter suppression.” They threaten to enlist the Justice Department to badger law-abiding citizens, apparently unaware that no such federal law exists pertaining to “voter suppression.” DOJ efforts to conjure legal theories of “voter suppression” have been met with embarrassing setbacks in the federal courts.
There are laws against voter “intimidation,” of course. But with the corrupt dismissal of the New Black Panther voter intimidation case, Eric Holder has set the bar very high on that score. Contrary to the claims of some, real legal standards define voter intimidation. Under no rational and credible legal theory do efforts to enforce Section 8 constitute voter intimidation. Shouting racial slurs and brandishing a weapon at voters? Yes, that’s intimidation. Making sure dead people aren’t on the voter rolls? No, that isn’t.
Some claim voter fraud doesn’t exist. They would be smart to reassess this myth. I have previously written at PJM that we have a long history of voter fraud, even if it doesn’t often affect election outcomes. I have cataloged dozens of instances of voter fraud at my blog, electionlawcenter.com, in just the last two months.
To opponents of effective list maintenance, Section 8 exists to threaten states who conduct robust purging programs. When Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez said that the DOJ is actually performing Section 8 functions, it was to advise states not to clean up voter rolls -- as compared with my aim of enforcing the law against states who neglect to clean up the rolls. A nicely played trick of the tongue on his part.
The American story has always been about ordinary people making a better country on their own, without government. When government intentionally abdicates its responsibility, as the DOJ has done on this and other matters, it is up to private citizens to get the job done.
Whether it is the failure to secure American borders, or the failure to secure the integrity of our elections, the federal government is failing. Through the work and support of private citizens, hopefully only living, breathing, eligible voters will be casting ballots in November.