Following up our earlier story today, the Chairman of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, John Conyers (D-MI), has now released a statement in response to TPM Muckraker's story today with on-the-record comments from former DoJ officials questioning the seriousness (or lack thereof) of the "investigation" by the Department's chief Voting official, John Tanner, into the reported racial disparities at polling places during the 2004 Presidential Election in Ohio.
In Conyers' statement (posted in full at the end of this article) he says he's "concerned about the extreme lengths Mr. Tanner went to in order to justify the reasons African-Americans were not treated equally in the 2004 Ohio election," and charges that "The Department of Justice – since the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – has a responsibility to thoroughly investigate allegations of voter suppression and discrimination, like those made in Ohio in 2004."
Tanner's "investigation" at the time had, remarkably, charged that the reason for long lines in minority areas of Ohio was because minorities chose to vote late in the afternoon, instead of earlier in the day as white voters did.
Essentially, as RAW STORY's coverage this afternoon says, "black voters caused their own lines in the Ohio 2004 vote," if Tanner is to be believed.
But a report from TPM Muckraker earlier today quotes a former colleague of Tanner's, who accompanied him on his trip to Ohio during the "investigation," as saying, "did black precincts get neglected? I know we didn’t try very hard to find out."
Conyers originally responded to Tanner's investigation in 2005 with a letter of his own back in 2005, writing to then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales that he was "flabbergasted that your office could reach such a casual conclusion without addressing the most serious charges of mis-allocation of votes in the County." He also expressed outrage that the DoJ chose to look into reports of election irregularities in only one Ohio county (Franklin).
Both Tanner's and Conyers' letters were posted and reported by The BRAD BLOG in 2005.
Today, the chairman says that in his 2005 landmark (though largely ignored, at the time) report entitled "Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio", he revealed "huge racial disparities in how voting machines were distributed in white and black precincts, among other findings." Yet Tanner had "found no discrepancies in the number of voting machines and attributed the long lines to the tendency of African-American voters to vote after work, as opposed to in the morning hours."
The BRAD BLOG has received indications from Conyers' office that he intends to question Tanner on these topics directly in an upcoming hearing. His statement today gives further indication of that.