Art Levine at The American Prospect has a new must read piece titled, “The Republican War on Voting: Using the Department of Justice, friendly governors, and its usual propaganda outlets, the GOP has propagated the myth of voter fraud to purge the rolls of non-Republicans.” Here's a small taste of it...
"Sharrard's cautionary tone was a response to the Republican Party's ongoing nationwide campaign to suppress the low-income minority vote by propagating the myth of voter fraud. Using various tactics --- including media smears, bogus lawsuits, restrictive new voting laws and policies, and flimsy prosecutions --- Republican operatives, election officials, and the GOP-controlled Justice Department have limited voting access and gone after voter-registration groups such as ACORN..."
"Unfortunately, progressives have tended to pay more attention to Election Day dirty tricks and to electronic voting machines than to a more systemic threat: the Republican campaign to suppress the votes of low-income, young, and minority voters through restrictive legislation and rulings, all based on the mythic specter of voter fraud..."
"Unfortunately, the public hasn't heard just how nonexistent the voter fraud epidemic actually is. While progressives have successfully challenged some of the most restrictive laws in court, they're still playing catch-up when it comes to combating the glib sound bites of voter-fraud alarmists. Republicans and the Bush Justice Department have cloaked their schemes under such noble-sounding concepts as "ballot integrity." The GOP's vote-suppression playbook features everything from phony lawsuits to questionable investigations to authoritative-seeming reports, all with the aim of promoting restrictive laws."
In related news, John Tanner, the man in charge of the Justice Department's efforts to disenfranchise millions of voters until he was forced to resign after The BRAD BLOG captured and exposed him making crazy offensive comments on video (see below), has a new job, apparently. Tanner is reportedly now a fellow with the Alabama Law Institute - which provides the Legislature with legal expertise in drafting and revising laws.
We admit to being perplexed enough by Matthew Mosk's Sunday article in WaPo, claiming that GOP "voter fraud" zealot Hans von Spakovsky, formerly of the DoJ Civil Rights voting unit, was "cleared" by a U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) inspector general's report, to poke around for a few minutes trying to figure out who this Mosk was, and how the hell he figured the report "cleared" von Spakovsy of anything.
vS was one of the notorious villians at the DoJ who politicized the hell out of the Civil Rights division by turning it into a blunt instrument to keep minority voters from being able to cast their lawful vote in any way he could figure out how to do.
He is also the failed nominee for the FEC who still has yet to show enough grace to remove his name from consideration, as he has singlehandedly succeeded in ensuring that the commission is entirely crippled, unable to vote on anything without a quorum, during an election year.
As the IG's report on whether the EAC was inappropriately influenced, by von Spakovsky and others, to withhold and the re-write a bi-partisan study on voter fraud, the then-chair of the EAC, Paul DiGregorio --- a Republican himself --- said that “too many of [von Spakovsky’s] decisions are clouded by his partisan thinking”...vS “certainly tried to influence...There’s no question about that," and that, the EAC chair felt that "von Spakovsky thought he should use his position (on the EAC commission) to advance the Republican Party position.”
Mosk used his WaPo article then, to quote vS alleging that the "conclusions (of the EAC IG report) represented a personal vindication" for him. Huh?
We got distracted by other business, and were unable to finish our poking around to figure out what Mosk might have been after, and why this article, on a report published three weeks ago suddenly became "news" to the Washington Post, with "clearance" of von Spakovsky as the central meme.
J. Gerald Hebert, over at the Campaign Legal Center Blog seems to have come away with the same perplexed reaction, opening his article yesterday with...
Thor Hearne and his phony White House/GOP "American Center for Voting Rights" (ACVR) front group may be officiallydisbanded, but that simply means their still mysteriously-funded, tax-exempt scam to push for disenfranchising Photo ID restrictions at polling places around the country continues beneath the radar and by occasionally different names. Same anti-democracy thugs. Same money. A few less discredited (so far) names.
One of those names was front and center yesterday during a hearing on Capitol Hill yesterday, as the huckster Hearne could be heard faintly in the distance, still pulling the strings.
When the U.S. Senate's Committee on Rules and Administration held a hearing yesterday to discuss whether Photo ID Voting Laws lead to disenfranchisement, University of Missouri academic Jeffrey Milyo was among those who were present to give testimony.
The primary reason for Milyo's inclusion in the panel was his recent publication of a study purporting to show that restrictive photo ID voting laws had no adverse effect on voter turnout in 2006 elections in Indiana. Never mind that voter turnout is not necessarily indicative of whether or not voters were disenfranchised by such laws or not. More to the point, for the moment, while Milyo's testimony poured forth easily for the committee when he was talking about his contention that Photo ID laws do not disenfranchise voters, he became less erudite when the simple question arose of how his research had been funded.
There was good reason for his sudden hemming and hawing...
For all the Bush Administration and Republican Party's phony sturm and drang about a supposed epidemic of "voter fraud" at the polling place, the DoJ refused to offer a representative to testify at a Senate hearing today on the topic.
According to a statement from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who chaired the hearing this morning in the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, the DoJ refused to allow testimony from the William Welch, Chief of the Public Integrity Section, which has "responsibility for civil and criminal enforcement of such voter fraud to discuss what the Department has found and to help quantify the problem of voter fraud at the polls."
"Only after extensive back and forth between my staff and the Department," Feinstein says, "did they finally send a letter stating that at some future date they would provide an unspecified witness." The full press release, including her opening statement today, is posted at the end of this article.
"In the void left by the Justice Department," Feinstein said, former US Attorney David Iglesias was called as a witness today. As The BRAD BLOG reported in some detail when the hearing was announced several days ago, Iglesias was fired during the U.S. Attorney Purge after he'd refused to bring phony "voter fraud" charges despite pressure from both Republican operatives and elected officials alike.
It's little wonder the DoJ was not allowed to participate in the hearings, despite the well-funded White House and Republican efforts to use discredited "evidence" of "voter fraud" in order to require Photo ID restrictions at the polling place which would succeed in disenfranchising millions of legal, largely Democratic voters, who do not have such ID...
Neil Cavuto of Fox "News" had on Maryland state senator, Alex Mooney (R), to discuss Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley's plan to allow "illegals" to keep driver's licenses. For the most part, Mooney plays the Fox guest role perfectly --- bashing the plan that could help "illegals", calling the Governor a "strong supporter of Hillary Clinton" and repeatedly referring to his political opposition as the "Democrat" party. However, the Senator fails to follow Cavuto's lead when he tries to link the licensing of "illegals" to voter fraud (beginning at the 2:55 mark):
Cavuto: But that second license, the illegal license, whatever you want to call it, that can't get you on planes or in federal offices, but I bet you it could let you vote.
Senator Mooney: Well, actually to vote you have to be a citizen according to the voter, when you register to vote you have to check off, at least pledge, under penalties of perjury, that you are a citizen.
Unconvinced, Cavuto pushes his case by stating that some municipalities might accept the licenses granted to illegals to which Mooney gives in a little. With Mooney back on board, Cavuto proceeds to bottom line the issue:
Cavuto: Bottom line Senator, you could have illegals voting in your state.
Senator Mooney: We could, but it wouldn't make much sense for them to do so, to be perfectly honest, because they would be subject to perjury and other problems. There's other things they'd rather do like be able to drive and have these jobs and, you know, go to schools.
Ouch! Only time will tell if the Senator is ever invited back to Fox "News".
Our Spidey-sense started tingling before going to bed last night and hearing reports, on MSNBC, that there were 17 paper ballots cast in Dixville Notch, NH, in its midnight, first-in-the-country voting. The report said that there were only 16 registered voters in the tiny voting precinct, yet 17 votes had been cast --- suggesting that somehow, paper ballot "voter fraud" skullduggery was afoot.
Following on that, reports throughout the day appeared that NH precincts were out of paper ballots, and voters were unable to vote.
Trouble is, both reports are either completely untrue, or wholly misleading, or both, as The BRAD BLOG was able to confirm with two simple phone calls.
Each of those reports, however, would seem to go a long way towards giving the impression that paper ballots are a bad idea, and that "voter fraud" is easy to commit when using them. Given that one of those reports seems to have begun on The DRUDGE REPORT earlier today, we're not particularly surprised that the MSM kept repeating the easily-debunked stories running all day.
That, even while there are reasons to be concerned about how the paper ballots used in the New Hampshire Primary will actually be counted by the hackable Diebold optical-scan systems used in the state, as controlled and programmed by an outrageously bad private contractor there...
In advance of Wednesday's hearing in the U.S. Supreme Court on the landmark case concerning the Republican Photo ID polling place restrictions in the state of Indiana, USA Today reports...
WASHINGTON — The League of Women Voters has tried to put names and faces on the people who could be hurt by a strict Indiana voter-identification law that the Supreme Court will take up Wednesday.
The league, in a court filing, refers to Mary Wayne Montgomery Eble, 92, who had no driver's license or ready access to the birth certificate she needed to get an alternative ID.
Ray Wardell, a stroke victim, made one trip to a state office for an alternative ID in vain. He did not have the proper document and returned home on foot with the aid of his walker.
Kim Tilman, a mother of seven whose husband, a janitor, is the family's sole source of income, found it would cost $26-$50 to round up the necessary papers for a proper ID.
The league is among the groups backing Indiana challengers to the law who say it impinges on the right to vote and mostly hurts elderly, disabled, poor and minority voters. A Republican-controlled Legislature passed the measure in 2005.
Backers of the law have been unable to cite a single case of "voter fraud", apparently in Indiana history, that would have been prevented by this law, which is, as BRAD BLOG readers know well by now, meant to do little more than keep as many Democratic-leaning voters from being able to exercise their right to cast a legal vote in an election.
UPDATE 1/8/08: Where USA Today did themselves proud with the article linked above, they did themselves in by giving space to discredited GOP operative, snake-oil salesman, vote suppression front man, Thor Hearne to blog in reply. Hearne shouldn't be allowed outside of a jail cell, much less allowed to post his lies, disinformation and propaganda with impunity at USA Today. And I've said as much in the comments section (typos and all, in my middle-of-the-night, outraged response) below his blog item at the newspaper's website.
It's incredible that USA Today did not note Hearne's dozens of conflicts of interest with the very item he wrote on their pages. As to Hearne, it would hardly be the first time this conman has slid by without telling the truth about who he actually is.
Shame on USA Today. If readers here are unaware who and what Thor Hearne is, see our years long special coverage on him and the GOP propaganda scam he has been running right here: www.BradBlog.com/ACVR.
"To date, the Kansas GOP has identified and caged more voters in the last 11 months than the previous two years!" brags Kansas GOP chairman Kris Kobach in his end-of-year letter.
Blue Tide Rising has the scoop, along with details on what "vote caging" is, for those who don't know by now. We should note, however, it's not immediately clear from Kobach's letter what exactly he means by his use of the term, and if he's referring to the illegal type of caging or not.
In any case, it's clear that the undemocratic (small "d") practice of working to keep Democratic (large "D") voters off the rolls, through any means necessary, in order to keep them from voting, through any means necessary, has been mainlined as perhaps the top strategy for the GOP in 2008. Even Bush's Dept. of Justice, under the hand of John "Minorities Die First" Tanner, has now been officially mobilized to direct such practices on behalf of the Republican States of America.
For more, see PBS's long-overdue video report from last summer, on the GOP's sordid history of vote caging and the corporate American mainstream media's failure to cover it when it might have mattered.
Plus, Crooks & Liars has details on the piece of work that is this Kris Kobach, a former counsel to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft.
More good news out of Florida, where a judge has tossed out an outrageous anti-voter law which, critics charge, could well have disenfranchised thousands of Sunshine State voters (again) just in time for the 2008 Presidential Election. We spoke just last week with Ion Sancho, Leon County (Tallahassee)'s legendary Supervisor of Elections, who expressed grave concerns about this very law, even as Republican's promise to appeal the judge's decision, and continue other anti-voter related efforts about the country.
TALLAHASSEE --- A federal judge ordered state election officials to stop enforcing a 2-year-old voter registration law, ruling Tuesday that there is already proof that the change put in place by the GOP-controlled Florida Legislature has resulted in ``actual harm to real individuals.''
About 14,000 people have not been able to register because of Florida's ''no match'' law that requires a citizen's name on a voter registration form be matched with a Social Security number or driver's license number. The law has been challenged by the NAACP and other groups that say the law unfairly blocks blacks and Hispanics from being able to register to vote.
U.S. District Judge Stephan Mickle rejected arguments from the state that the law is needed to deter possible voter fraud, pointing out that the state has not been able to prove that the 14,000 voters now in limbo engaged in voter fraud. He said the requirements put in place by Florida lawmakers apper to conflict with federal voting rights laws.
''The disenfranchisement, however unintentional, causes damage to the election system that cannot be repaired after the election has passed,'' Mickle wrote in the order.
The article goes on to report that FL's appointed Republican Secretary of State, Kurt Browning, says the state will appeal the ruling, about which he says, "in my view the Legislature appropriately enacted this important anti-fraud provision as part of Florida's Election Code."
Browning's comments, unfortunately, come as little surprise for a number of disturbing reasons...
Abrams was outraged at the lateral move for Tanner, and his attempted re-writing of the history of his shameful record, in his "farewell email" to colleagues. Guests David Becker, a former DoJ Civil Rights Division attorney, now of People for the American Way (PFAW) and Washington Post's Dana Milbank, both concurred that Tanner's comments, as video-taped, and originally reported by The BRAD BLOG were instrumentally in his "demise".
The extension to the investigative series shores up Abrams' promise which concluded last week's "final" episode...
“Now while this was the last episode of this series, our 'Bush League' investigations are far from over. A new Attorney General has taken over. We are going to be watching very closely. The days of Justice Department malfeasance remaining under the mainstream media radar are over. You are on notice.”
Abrams once again showed a clip from our video, and this time with proper credit (Thank you!). He initially reported on the Tanner controversy, using a clip from our video, in the opening episode of the series last Monday.
As well, we heard yesterday from a producer on the show who told us they felt there would likely be much more to come in what may now be a now-continuing series. In the bargain, we were able to discuss a number of otherBRAD BLOG stories which may be of interest to them in future shows. So, stay tuned...
(Hat-tip to Alan Breslauer for both the above video, and the original video-tape of Tanner which started it all, from last October's National Latino Congreso here in Los Angeles, where he made his now-infamous remarks!)
In an irony of ironies, the man famous for fabricating --and then suddenly disappearing-- an organization expressly for purposes of spreading misinformation about "voter fraud" in order to suppress Democratic vote counts, is now hitting classrooms to teach Missouri lawyers about campaign finance laws and lobbyist disclosure.
Perhaps Hearne will lovingly detail all the steps that one can take --hypothetically, of course-- to concoct front organizations that serve as proxies for partisan interests and then lobby legislatures for needless statutory changes that will strip away rights from legal voters and provide their party with structural electoral advantages.
This appearance by Hearne seems to be the latest in a series of contrived efforts to re-enter the public sphere after several months in hiding. Hearne largely disappeared from the scene after he became a touchstone of the actions of a corrupt and politically motivated Department of Justice --- who brought "voter fraud" prosecutions timed to coincide with elections, in violation of written DoJ procedures, etc. --- and suffered well-deserved beatings at the hands of Congressional investigators.
The one saving grace of the Missouri Bar's seminar may be that Hearne's anti-rights ranting will be balanced out by one of his co-presenters, attorney Rob Heggie, who possesses a long record of standing up in favor of protecting the rights of Missouri voters.
For more information on the "non-partisan" tax-exempt ACVR "Voter Fraud" scam and the snakeoil salesmen who invented it, Bush/Cheney '04 National General Counsel Mark F. "Thor" Hearne and RNC Communications Director Jim Dyke, please see BRAD BLOG's full Special Coverage of the "American Center for Voting Rights" at http://www.BradBlog.com/ACVR.
The controversial head of the DoJ Civil Rights Division, Voting Section, John Tanner, finally resigned from his position as of 11am ET this morning...
Today, John Tanner resigned from his position effective immediately as chief of the Civil Rights Division's voting section. His resignation email, with the subject line "Moving On" was sent out at approximately 11 AM to voting section staff. He said that he will be moving on to the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices.
"The resignation of John Tanner is long overdue," writes one happy voting section staffer to The BRAD BLOG this morning, saying that he and his colleagues are "overjoyed at the news."
"Since becoming Section Chief in 2005 and even before, Tanner demonstrated that he cared only about serving his Republican overlords' desire to suppress minority voting to help the Republican Party win elections and not about the enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. A great many long-time members of the Voting Section staff are overjoyed at the news of his departure," the staffer tells us, adding that a celebration is in the works.
"We are already planning a party for next week --- not a 'John Tanner goodbye party' but a 'goodbye John Tanner party.'"
At right is the most notable section of the now-infamous BRAD BLOG video, taped by our own Alan Breslauer at the National Latino Congreso in Los Angeles and which kicked off the most recent firestorm over Tanner's tenure. In it, as we reported exclusively at the time, Tanner explains his reasoning for over-ruling the majority opinion of career staffers in his own department in order to approve a controversial Photo ID polling place restriction in the state of Georgia. The measure was later found unconstitutional and declared to be a modern day Jim Crow-era poll tax by two federal courts.
Tanner says in the video, that though it's a "shame" that the elderly might be disenfranchised by such laws, "minorities don't become elderly the way white people do. They die first."
"Mr. Tanner had a clear record of undermining the core mission of the section – protecting the right to vote," Rep. Jerrod Nadler, chair of a House Judiciary subcommittee which oversees Tanner's department, said in a statement today in response to the resignation. "Tanner was actively seeking to curtail that cornerstone of American democracy. The right to vote is the foundation of all our liberties and it must be protected."
The chair of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, John Conyers, was so incensed by Tanner's comments, as well as his previous efforts at white-washing a DoJ investigation of election fraud and voter suppression during the 2004 Presidential Election in Ohio, hearings were called in the House in late October, featuring an even more shameful performance by Tanner (video highlights/lowlights here), who would be described by the Washington Post afterwards as "one sorry man."
In response to Tanner's testimony at the hearings, The BRAD BLOG posted a letter from a voting section staffer, excoriating his sworn comments to the panel as "not credible", adding that Tanner had "lost no time in twisting the truth" in his testimony.
Tanner's long, often rambling resignation email sent out this morning (posted in full at the bottom of this article) skillfully attempts to re-write the history of his shameful tenure. In it, he conflates past performance of the department, beginning with his original arrival at DoJ 30 years ago, with the Civil Rights division's more recent and politicized history during which six years passed without a single lawsuit against African-American voter suppression have being filed.
Just one such case was filed under the DoJ's Voting Rights Act Section 5 oversight mandate, and it was a reverse-discrimination case in which white voters in Mississippi were said to have been discriminated against.
A special series on "Bush League Justice" by MSNBC's Dan Abrams premiered this week. In it's opening episode on Monday, Abrams focused on the DoJ's disastrous Civil Rights Division, and once again played a clip from Tanner's "minorities...die first" comments which we originally captured.
"Under Mr. Tanner's leadership, the Justice Department essentially took positions that disenfranchised minorities and the elderly," Nadler echoed once more in his comments today.
It was almost three years ago that The BRAD BLOG first spotted the conspiracy long-range business plan being fronted for the Republicans by GOP con-man/operative Mark F. "Thor" Hearne II. The scheme became immediately transparent, to those who wished to see it, when his brand-spanking new "voting rights" group scam, calling themselves the "American Center for Voting Rights" (ACVR), popped up at a phony Congressional hearing on the 2004 Election, in March of 2005, as chaired by the now-jailed felon from Ohio, Rep. Bob Ney (R-Abramoff).
Hearne had identified himself at the hearing only as "a longtime advocate of voter rights and an attorney experienced in election law," conveniently omitting that he had been the very partisan national general counsel for Bush/Cheney '04 Inc. and had founded the "non-partisan" ACVR with his "non-partisan" partner, Jim Dyke, who had previously been the communication director for the RNC. (Shortly thereafter, the "non-partisan" Dyke went on to work for the "non-partisan" Dick Cheney at the White House, and now fronts for the "non-partisan" Rudy Giuliani.)
We spent a good portion of the ensuing three years with our hair on fire, trying to wave red flags about the transparent scheme/propaganda that Hearne was selling: Phonied up data on a non-existent "epidemic" of "Democratic Voter Fraud" in order to force restrictive Photo ID laws at the polling place, meant only to keep millions of largely Democratic-leaning minority and elderly voters from being able to cast a legal vote at all.
But the mission had been accomplished, and the foothold the Republican scammers needed had already been established, with laws such as Indiana's Photo ID restriction that is now headed towards a hearing in the Supreme Court. The results of the decision could well help determine the outcome of the 2008 elections.
UPDATE: Alternet's Steve Rosenfeld picks up on this precise issue today, reporting on how the rightwing "ballot security" operatives are arguing to the Supreme Court in favor of pre-emptive voter challenges at the poll, without the necessity of having to show that any such voter fraud is actually occurring. As well, they are building their legal case on the idea that "fear of" voter fraud is enough to demand such onerous ID requirements, even though it is the same "right-wing activists who spent years creating and publicizing a myth of widespread voter fraud," who are now making the case that "perception of potentially corrupted elections is yet another reason why states should be allowed to police the voting process with new restrictions such as voter ID laws." These wingnut zealot bullshit artists are the best in the business. If you consider "best" to be most evil and "business" to be our frickin' American democracy.
Despite Hearne's claims, made earlier this year to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, that The BRAD BLOG made it impossible for him to run his scam without public/media notice, the huckster is still at it. He's just filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case, on behalf of 41 GOP Congress members.
You didn't think he'd just slither back under his rock and stay there, did you?...
According to Abrams, the Bush administration "has turned the Division against the very people it was designed to protect. Instead of pursuing discrimination cases on behalf of African Americans, the Bush Civil Rights Division has focused on supposed reverse discrimination cases against whites and religious discrimination cases against Christians." Abrams points out that between 2001 and 2006, "not one voting discrimination case was brought on behalf of African Americans."
The segment continues with Abrams questioning former DoJ attorneys David Becker and Alia Malek about the Bush administration "stack[ing] the deck against Democrats." In one example given by Becker, congressional redistricting plans thought to favor Democrats would get "very, very, serious scrutiny" while redistrictings that favored Republicans would receive a "very hands off approach" even if, as was the case in Texas, the plan was unanimously found to discriminate against Hispanics by career Justice Department officials.
In addition to stacking the deck against Democrats, Abrams states that the Justice Department has been "hijacked" by the far right. After evidencing this claim with a couple of telling statistics, a somewhat exasperated Abrams continues, "They fundamentally changed what the Civil Rights Division does. It's no longer there to protect African Americans. It is to go after reverse discrimination cases and also to try and promote religion in schools and other public places."
Part 1 continues (at the 6:15 mark) with Abrams playing the "pretty amazing statement" by John Tanner, the current chief of the DoJ's Voting Rights Section, about minorities not being disenfranchised by Photo ID laws because they "don't become elderly the way white people do, they die first." Unfortunately Abrams, like many in the mainstream media, failed to credit The BRAD BLOG for our original video and reporting of the incident.
Despite the slight we look forward to more excellent reporting on this long overdue topic throughout the week.
Will The 2008 Vote Be Fair? That was the topic addressed by host David Brancaccio and former Justice Department official David Becker on NOW last Friday. Part I (at left, 10:01) begins with a discussion of Photo ID laws to prevent the "invented problem" of voter fraud. The discussion continues at the 6:15 mark on the topics of voter caging and voter purging --- when the DoJ requires jurisdictions to purge their voter rolls when they do not match census estimates.
Part II (at right, 9:50) begins with Becker explaining how the Bush 43 Justice Department has subverted its traditional mission: "During about a five year span, not one single case was brought on behalf of African Americans in the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division". Becker goes on to state that policies were established that favored Republicans and disfavored Democrats in an effort to "gam[e] the system" to retain power.
Next, Brancaccio and Becker explore how the U.S. Attorney scandal fits in to the bigger picture. Becker: "The DoJ, especially under Alberto Gonzales, was being used as an arm of the right wing of the Republican Party to effectuate partisan gains in elections". Finally, the program concludes with a discussion on voting machines and Florida's 13th District.