Asst. Attorney General Alex Acosta Sent Letter to Federal Judge Backing Republican Effort to Challenge Democratic, Minority Voters Just Prior to Presidential Election
Investigation into Illegal RNC Effort Spreads from Florida to the Buckeye State...
By Brad Friedman on 6/25/2007, 9:37am PT  

Blogged quickly by Brad Friedman from Alabama (with a laptop on my knee)...

McClatchy's excellent Greg Gordon reports that the DoJ had written a letter in support of vote caging by Republicans in Ohio in 2004...

Ex-Justice official accused of aiding scheme to scratch minority voters

WASHINGTON - Four days before the 2004 election, the Justice Department’s civil rights chief sent an unusual letter to a federal judge in Ohio who was weighing whether to let Republicans challenge the credentials of 23,000 mostly African-American voters.

The case was triggered by allegations that Republicans had sent a mass mailing to mostly Democratic-leaning minorities and used undeliverable letters to compile a list of voters potentially vulnerable to eligibility challenges.

In his letter to U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott of Cincinnati, Assistant Attorney General Alex Acosta argued that it would "undermine" the enforcement of state and federal election laws if citizens could not challenge voters’ credentials.

Former Justice Department civil rights officials and election watchdog groups charge that his letter sided with Republicans engaging in an illegal, racially motivated tactic known as "vote-caging" in a state that would be pivotal in delivering President Bush a second term in the White House.
...
But Robert Kengle, former deputy chief of the department’s Voting Rights Section who served under Acosta, said the letter amounted to "cheerleading for the Republican defendants."

"It was doubly outrageous," he said, "because the allegation in the litigation was that these were overwhelmingly African-American voters that were on the challenge list."

Joseph Rich, a former chief of the department's Voting Rights Section, called the Ohio scheme "vote caging."

As BRAD BLOG readers know, we've been reporting --- often far too exclusively --- on the Florida 2004 vote caging scheme by former GOP oppo-researcher turned Karl Rove assistant turned Arkansas US Attorney turned disgraced former US Attorney, Tim Griffin. As we're on the roll, we'll have to refer you to our "Vote Caging" category for our previous detailed coverage. Scroll through the articles on that page for much more background.

But here's a bit more from McClatchy's piece today...

The House Judiciary Committee plans soon to begin examining whether the Civil Rights Division took positions in support of a Republican agenda to suppress the votes of poor and elderly minorities who tend to vote for Democrats
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Democrats sued in Cincinnati to block the challenges and before U.S. District Judge Dickinson Debevoise in Newark, N.J., who had issued a consent decree barring the tactic in 1982 after finding the GOP illegally targeted minority voters in the state’s gubernatorial race the previous year.

The Justice Department was not a party to either case. Nor did Judge Dlott solicit the federal government’s views. But Acosta weighed in anyway.

Challenges, he wrote, "help strike a balance between ballot access and ballot integrity."

Republicans’ use of caging has been a contentious issue ever since Debevoise’s ruling 26 years ago. In 1986, the judge found that Louisiana Republicans had violated the consent decree. In 1990, another consent decree was issued after the Republican Party of North Carolina and the re-election campaign of Republican Sen. Jesse Helms sent 125,000 postcards to mostly black voters to compile a list of voters to challenge.