PJ Media

DOJ's Military Voting Mess Continues Post-Election, but Congress Now Paying Attention

The military voting mess of 2010 isn’t over. In some states, ballots continue to roll in. Whether or not these late ballots will be counted remains to be seen.

I have learned that voters deployed across Iraq and Afghanistan received ballots far too late to be effective. The MOVE Act of 2009 was designed to fix this problem, but may have failed. One reason for the failure: open contempt inside the Department of Justice to the mandates of the new law.

It will be up to the new Congress to examine what happened in 2010 and to implement a remedy that prevents the same mess in 2012, and ending the DOJ monopoly on enforcing the law should top the list. Congress should give soldiers and sailors the right to sue when ballots don’t mail on time. DOJ bureaucrats can no longer be trusted as exclusive stewards of military voting rights.

Pajamas Media has extensively covered the military voting mess of 2010 and how DOJ dropped the ball over and over again. From failing to provide the states with written guidance on the new law, to failing to detect when states failed to mail ballots weeks late, disenfranchised soldiers can thank Eric Holder for late or uncounted ballots. Whatever actions DOJ took in 2010 to protect military voters only came after Senator Cornyn and the media were breathing down Holder’s neck. And even those efforts came late in the game.

My sources tell me that the responsible officials inside DOJ think the criticism from the public and from Congress is unfair. In other words, they believe their own spin. The bureaucrats actually believe that because they were making phone calls, instead of litigating in court, they were “aggressively enforcing” the law. They think waiting until October 22 to file a lawsuit in Illinois — even though the media, including PJM, broke the story on October 7 that ballots weren’t mailing — constitutes aggressive enforcement. They were working hard, talking on the phone, and debating internally, they claim.

Worst of all, bureaucrats inside DOJ expressly crafted DOJ litigation decisions with open contempt for congressional mandates. Congress declared that ballots must go out 45 days before the election. I have learned through multiple sources with direct knowledge that DOJ bureaucrats responsible for military voting explicitly argued repeatedly that the law could be satisfied by giving overseas ballots a total of 45 days, even if they were mailed weeks after the deadline. In other words, they had the power to disregard the explicit command of Congress, so they did. This is the smoking gun that Congress can reveal in hearings next year.

Why would they treat the law with such contempt?

Firstly, they disagree with the law. If Congress were to put particular DOJ managers under oath, they would find they have been wedded to a “30 days is enough time” fable forever. They didn’t like being rebuked by the MOVE Act’s expansion to 45 days.

Secondly, these same DOJ officials are terrified of litigation. Instead of aggressively defending the soldier’s right to vote, they aggressively defend their safe, quiet, unnoticed nook where they never have to risk losing an argument in court. They are more afraid of losing an argument than of a soldier in Afghanistan losing their right to vote.

Thirdly, they believe in 80 percent solutions for voters who give 100 percent, and sometimes more. Congress may hear from former DOJ employees who tell me they would testify that the DOJ bureaucrat in charge of military voting spoke repeatedly of half-solutions. The bureaucrat explicitly believed that some military voters could be disenfranchised, but as long as “most” had a “reasonable” chance to participate, DOJ washed their hands of it.

These bureaucrats can stick fingers in their ears and hum all they want, but here are the inescapable facts: Congress is going to get to the bottom of the mess of 2010. Cold hard data are going to be available about whether or not soldiers were disenfranchised by the inaction of DOJ. The story of the military voting mess did not end with the November 2 election.

Incoming subcommittee chairs like Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina are the right people to get to the bottom of it all. Nobody cares more about men and women in uniform than Joe Wilson. This seasoned lawyer knows how to detect and cut through administration spin — he is a “lie” detector second to none. But most of all, as an Army vet, he knows what it means to serve, and his son Alan is also a lawyer and Iraq combat vet. Wilson is the right person to ensure the military voting mess of 2010 does not repeat in 2012.

Of course, Senator John Cornyn has also experienced DOJ spin all year long. He has seen his requests rebuffed, over and over, for basic information from DOJ such as which states were in compliance with the MOVE Act and which were not. The reason DOJ never told him is that they didn’t know themselves. Cornyn has blocked the deputy attorney general nominee, and his hold should stay in place contingent on DOJ cooperation with congressional oversight.

Naturally, members of the House Judiciary Committee will be well-armed for Justice oversight hearings, and have experienced firsthand Eric Holder’s stonewalling.

The Election Assistance Commission will be gathering data on how many ballots were mailed and what the successful return rates were. Private groups such as the Military Voter Protection Project, run by former DOJ lawyer Eric Eversole, are going to data mine the effectiveness of DOJ enforcement activity by examining actual ballot return patterns.

Simply, DOJ will endure congressional and private sector scrutiny on their effectiveness like they never have before. No amount of slick spin will be able to gloss over the raw numbers. Empty rhetoric is not as trendy as it was in 2008.