Statement Suggesting Whites More Disenfranchised Than Minorities Because Minorities 'Die First' Before Becoming Elderly, Disputed by John Tanner's Predecessor, Former Colleagues
An 'Imus Moment' Declares a BRAD BLOG DoJ Source...
By Brad Friedman on 10/9/2007, 1:09pm PT  

Paul Kiel at TPM Muckracker has picked up on, and advanced, our Exclusive report yesterday concerning the remarkable comments made last Friday by John Tanner, the Chief of the Civil Rights Division, Voting Unit, at the DoJ, concerning Photo ID restrictions at the polls.

In a follow-up report today, Kiel gets reactions from former DoJ officials, including the man who previously held the same job as Tanner at the DoJ, charging that the remarks and logic behind them were "frankly ludicrous" and "false" and based on "cherry-picking the data that he wants to use."

A DoJ source of our own wrote to us after yesterday's report and characterized the comments as Tanner's "Imus moment."

Tanner had told a group in Los Angeles last Friday --- and our own Alan Breslauer was there to catch it on video tape --- that non-minorities were more likely to be disenfranchised by such restrictive polling laws laws than African-Americans.

"It's probably true that among those who don't [have Photo ID], it's primarily elderly persons. And that's a shame," Tanner told the audience. He then added: "Of course...our society is such that minorities don't become elderly. The way that white people do. They die first." The implication being that, therefore, minorities are somehow less likely to be disenfranchised by draconian Photo ID laws at the polling place.

Tanner had approved a disenfranchising Georgia Photo ID scheme on behalf of the DoJ in 2005, despite the fact that 4 out of the 5 career civil rights unit staffers who had reviewed the law recommended against pre-approval under the Voting Rights Act. The law, once approved by Tanner, was later found unconstitutional by two federal courts, and described by one of the judges to be little more than a "Jim Crow-era poll tax."

ePluribus Media has much more on Tanner's resume and discriminatory reign as voting section chief in the Civil Rights Division.

Restrictive Photo ID laws, being strongly and strategically pushed by elements of the GOP around the nation, are controversial since anywhere from 10 to 30 million Americans, largely Democratic-leaning voters who are elderly, minorities, and/or urban dwellers, are believed to have no driver's licenses. Most states already have requirements for some form of ID when voting, though not necessarily state-issued Photo ID.

Further, the federal Help America Vote of Act of 2002 already requires proof of identity when a voter registers to vote. In the meantime, by even the DoJ's own numbers, voter fraud at the polls is exceedingly rare in America. That, despite GOP kool-aid drinkers like Rep. Duncan Hunter and his recent unfounded claims to the contrary.

According to Kiel at TPM Muck today, both Tanner's predecessor Joe Rich and the man who analyzed the numbers for Tanner at the DoJ in the Georgia case, Toby Moore, strongly dispute Tanner's comments, characterizing them as "not only wrong, but way off, and typical of the type of decision making" in the current DoJ's Voting Rights section...

“In trying to defend his decision in the Georgia case, he’s saying things that are frankly ludicrous,” Joe Rich, a forty-year veteran of the Department and Tanner's predecessor in the voting rights section, told me.

"This is the kind of analysis that the voting section has been doing: seat of the pants generalizations and suppositions instead of hard numbers and analysis," said Toby Moore, a redistricting expert who worked as an analyst for the section until the spring of 2006. "It's false." Tanner's conclusions, he added, were "always in support of what his Republican appointee bosses wanted him to say, which is why he got to where he is."
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He'd recently made similar comments when addressing the Georgia NAACP about the 2005 Georgia law last week. There, Tanner told the group that minorities were actually "slightly more likely" than non-minorities to have a photo ID," according to the AP.

"As the person who analyzed the numbers for John," Moore told me, "I can tell you that he's cherry-picking the data that he wants to use."

Kiel has done us the favor of transcribing the short Q&A, caught on video-tape, in which Tanner made his objectionable comments.

David Kurtz at TPM also picked up on our report, calling the remarks "unbelievable."