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.
"The 2004 election exposed serious deficiencies in [the DoJ's voting section's] failure to adequately investigate and prosecute voter suppression efforts nationwide and I hope [Tanner] is prepared to address this issue head on," Conyers is quoting as saying in this afternoon's statement.
Conyers, and other Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee, had held their own set of hearings back in 2005 --- one in D.C. and one in Columbus, Ohio --- after Republicans, then in the majority, had refused to do so.
Only one official Congressional hearing was held to review voting disparities in the 2004 Presidential Election and that was in the House Administration Committee, at the time chaired by the now-jailed Ohio Republican, Bob Ney. At that hearing, the Bush/Cheney '04 national general counsel, Mark F. "Thor" Hearne, emerged for the first time as the co-founder of the "non-partisan" voting rights group, "American Center for Voting Rights." The group, ACVR, had been formed just three days earlier, and was the only "voting rights" group to testify at the hearing.
Hearne, who did not reveal his affiliation with Team Bush during the hearings, describing himself only as "longtime advocate of voter rights and an attorney experienced in election law." He then went on to admit that there was intimidation and voting disparities during the Ohio election. He testified they were caused by John Kerry and the Democrats.
Days later they would release a propaganda report claiming "Democrat Operatives Far More Involved In Voter Intimidation And Suppression In 2004, Thousands Of Americans Disenfranchised By Vote Fraud On Election Day."
The ACVR front-group has since "disappeared" in the wake of the U.S. Attorney purge scandal, and the outing of their questionable, and possibly illegal, methods. Much more on our years-long coverage of the Hearne and his ACVR scam is at http://www.Bradblog.com/ACVR.
Conyers' complete statement today is posted in full below...
For Immediate Release: October 12, 2007
Jonathan Godfrey (202) 226-6888
Melanie Roussell (202) 226-5543
(Washington, DC)- Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) released a statement in response to news reports that Department of Justice (DOJ) Voting Section Chief John Tanner's investigation of the 2004 election in Ohio concluded that long lines and late voting precincts were due to the fact that white voters tend to cast ballots in the morning (i.e., before work) and black voters cast ballots in the afternoon (i.e., after work). The news report appeared online at the popular blog, TPMmuckraker.com.
"I am 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. The committee needs to consider this matter. I am aware of no precedent for the Department acting in this capacity in the past.
"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. I look forward to hearing more from Mr. Tanner in our committee later this month as he testifies about his work as chief of the voting section. The 2004 election exposed serious deficiencies in this section's failure to adequately investigate and prosecute voter suppression efforts nationwide and I hope he is prepared to address this issue head on."
Conyers issued a comprehensive report on voting discrepancies in Ohio in 2004, titled, What Went Wrong in Ohio, and found huge racial disparities in how voting machines were distributed in white and black precincts, among other findings. Tanner, in contrast, in a 2005 letter detailing his findings, says he 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 full story is available at: http://www.tpmmuckraker.com/archives/004438.php.