Inept: PJM Readers Knew Illinois Failed Military Voters, but DOJ Didn't

When I reported at PJM that military ballots in New York failed to mail just three weeks before the election, I described it as surreal. Surreal became tragic when considering how badly the DOJ dropped the ball. They failed to do anything about the problem for eight days after learning about it.

Now it has gotten much worse. I can report that Illinois has at least 25 counties which failed to mail military ballots in compliance with federal law. And DOJ never had a clue. The DOJ, charged with oversight, never detected the failure. To military families and servicemembers, rage is the only appropriate response.

I first reported over a week ago at PJM that ballots did not mail in parts of Illinois. All day long Wednesday, DOJ attorneys breathlessly pursued information about Illinois. I have obtained communications from DOJ and emails related to this panicked DOJ inquiry. They reveal that as of Wednesday, DOJ still didn’t know what was going on in Illinois 25 days after the September 18 mailing deadline -- even though PJM did on October 7.

It’s time for members of Congress besides Senators Charles Schumer and John Cornyn to start demanding answers.

Bob Delaney, the St. Clair County clerk, outright refused to mail nearly 1,500 military ballots until October. He had hoped to include a GOP-spoiling Constitution Party candidate to the ballot. The spoiler never had a chance of getting in the race, and the ballots never mailed to military voters. Whether DOJ will act against such nakedly partisan motives remains to be seen.

Some like to speculate that the failure to enforce the MOVE Act must be intentional. They think DOJ is trying to help fading Democratic hopes. They say President Obama wants to help home state Democrats. For now, I tend to disagree, as would anyone who has ever worked inside the Voting Section at DOJ as I have. Everyone who works there knows exactly what the problem is: a broken enforcement system managed with a total lack of urgency.

In the spring, the Pentagon sent the DOJ a draft for waiver guidance to issue to the states. Waivers are available to states to opt out of the MOVE Act for one year, for good cause. The Pentagon wanted to give states some sense of when waivers might be justified, how they should structure their ballot mailing programs, and what would result in a denied waiver. They sent a draft to the DOJ.

The DOJ never wrote back with suggestions.

Because there was no guidance, states were left waiting and had no idea what to do. They failed to fix their laws, applied for waivers, and were denied in some instances. But the broken state systems were in place for the elections, without any chance for repair under DOJ guidance.

Again, the inability to move a document from point A to point B will come as no surprise to anyone has worked inside the Voting Section. Memos on important cases have sat gathering dust in the military voting pipeline for weeks, sometimes months. This peculiar inability to make a decision or to take decisive action is well-known and fully understood. There is also a history of aversion to entering a courtroom to litigate a case (though I’ll bet Arizona Governor Jan Brewer wonders why that wasn't an issue in the parts of the Justice Department attacking her anti-illegal alien laws).