Military Voting Accountability Starts Today

Tom Perez is tasked today with the unenviable job of putting lipstick on the DOJ’s military voting pig. No doubt he’ll talk about the Department’s “aggressive enforcement” and multiple lawsuits. He’ll leave out the part about it taking weeks to file the lawsuits after the violations were discovered by Pajamas Media. He’ll omit the part about tedious delays, talk, and negotiations instead of action in the precious days leading up to the election.

I doubt he will mention Maryland and the unconstitutional plan the DOJ greenlighted there which resulted in wholesale disenfranchisement of military voters. Thankfully, we can count on Eric Eversole to tell Congress how the Justice Department blessed a plan for Maryland to send ballots overseas that omitted state contests, like the one between Governor Martin O’Malley and Republican challenger Bob Ehrlich.

I have learned through multiple sources with direct knowledge that the Perez- and Julie Fernandes-run Voting Section advised states that it would be acceptable under federal law to omit down-ballot state contests and only give servicemembers overseas the right to vote in federal contests.

Congress should ask Tom Perez today if Voting Section staff advised states that they could avoid Justice lawsuits by simply erasing or omitting the state contests from the ballots mailed overseas. If he doesn’t answer straight, ask him if such advice was given to Maryland and Rokey Suleman of the District of Columbia Board of Elections, or any other state.

If Perez answers truthfully -- which he will have to because documents prove it -- he will have to admit such guidance was given. He might deflect the question and say there is nothing wrong with it, except there is. Omitting state contests have been found by a federal court to be an unconstitutional deprivation of the soldier’s right to vote: Eversole’s Military Voter Protection Project sued Maryland because it treated military voters differently than regular voters by omitting state contests in ballots sent overseas, and Eversole won. Maryland servicemembers could vote for everyone running, despite DOJ’s efforts to the contrary. Simply, DOJ blessed a plan for military voters in Maryland that a federal court found to be unconstitutional. More lipstick please, for Mr. Perez’s pig.

Recall that Tom Perez is the same Obama appointee who provided accuracy-challenged testimony about the New Black Panther dismissal and the Department’s unwillingness to enforce civil rights laws in a race-neutral fashion. Committee members should proceed cautiously.

I also suspect Tom Perez won’t tell the whole story about Illinois. The DOJ entered a settlement agreement with Illinois that plainly flouted the express command of Congress. Federal law required ballots to mail 45 days in advance. Early mailing is important for many reasons, including the ability to enjoy essentially an express mail “wormhole” a few days before the election that rockets ballots stateside for counting. Illinois allows overseas ballots to be counted 15 days after the election. Fail to follow federal law? No problem, Perez’s DOJ simply entered a settlement that ignored the 45 day law and artificially tacked on the 15 extra days under state law to count towards reaching 45 days. Problem was, only 30 of those 45 days were before the election. Congress explicitly rejected such a fix.

Illinois, Maryland, and D.C. were not the only places where the DOJ blew it.

The saga of 2010 military voting is a loud warning to House Republicans that Perez’s shop is not to be trusted heading into 2012, even if there are wholesale attitude and personnel adjustments. He might start the adjustments with the person responsible for telling Maryland and other states they could unconstitutionally disenfranchise our soldiers and sailors. If Perez won’t conduct a housecleaning, Senator Barrasso has the answer.