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Attorney General Warns: Not Enough Federal Oversight of Election

Attorney General Loretta Lynch and top Justice Department political appointees are warning that the upcoming federal election will not have enough federal oversight of state election officials. In recent remarks to the League of United Latin American Citizens, Lynch derided the threat to voting rights because the federal government no longer has the power to send hundreds of federal election observers into state polling sites to monitor state and local officials.

In 2013, the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder struck down the 1965 coverage formula that put sixteen states under federal oversight. These oversight powers included the federal power to send swarms of federal observers into state polling locations to monitor state elections. Alaska, New York, and South Dakota were among the states with counties covered by the law.

The Supreme Court ruled in Shelby that the conditions in 1965 were no longer relevant to the extraordinary exercise of federal power over state elections in 2013.

But that hasn’t stopped Attorney General Loretta Lynch and other advocates from stoking paranoia by claiming the right to vote is endangered in the upcoming election without those observers. Reuters even adopted the sky-is-falling approach, presenting three-year-old news as news under the headline U.S. Curtails Federal Election Observers [!!].

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights -- a reliable source for chicken-little quotes about voting -- says the federal observers “play a critical role in protecting voting rights, especially for voters of color and others who have historically been vulnerable to rampant voting discrimination.” Because of the Supreme Court's decision in Shelby in 2013, he says, the right to vote is at risk in November without federal observers.

Wade Henderson Wade Henderson

Lynch said the Supreme Court “limited the number of observers we can send into the field to watch the election process, to collect evidence, to deter wrongdoing, to defuse tension and to promote compliance.”

There’s only one problem with the fear-mongering -- the 2014 federal election went off without a hitch.

For example, Mr. Henderson’s chicken-little press office doesn’t mention a single instance of purported election day discrimination or intimidation after the 2014 federal election -- when there were no federal observers in the field.

If anything, the 2014 election demonstrated the federal election monitoring program had become a colossal waste of money by the time the Supreme Court decided Shelby.

The federal observer program worked like this: each federal election, and often in primaries throughout the year, hundreds and hundreds of federal employees would fly from their homes around the country and converge in one of the covered counties. This would cost the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars upon tens of thousands of dollars. The federal employees would stay for multiple days in the target location at nearby hotels, racking up items on their expense reports,  and renting cars and hotel conference rooms for training.

On election day, they would stand in the polls from dawn to dusk taking notes and filling out paperwork that ran dozens of pages. The notes would include how many people vote with assistance, what forms were posted on the walls, a drawing of the polling place, and places for a wide range of other information.

Federal employees enjoyed serving as election observers because it earned them some money and got them out of the office to see the country.