In advance of tomorrow morning's House Judiciary Committee hearing to feature testimony by DoJ Civil Rights Division Voting Section chief John "Minorities Die First" Tanner, DNC Chair Howard Dean and Donna Brazile of the DNC Voting Rights Institute have issued a statement calling for Tanner to be "immediately fired."
"In their latest scheme, the Republican Administration has manipulated the mission of the Department of Justice, firing US Attorneys who were unwilling to pursue phony 'voter fraud' cases, and politicized the Civil Rights Division," the statement (posted in full at the end of this article) reads.
The release goes on to decry the politicization of the Bush Department of Justice, and what is described as their "outright assault" on the right to vote.
"Tanner's outrageous comments underscore the GOP's utter disregard for the integrity of our nation's election system and are an affront to the spirit of the Voting Rights Act," Dean and Brazile said, before declaring that the embattled Voting Rights Section chief "should be fired immediately and replaced with someone who will work to make sure that all citizens are able to vote and have their vote counted."
They call on Judge Michael Mukasey, if he is confirmed as the next Attorney General, to "commit to replacing Tanner with someone who will protect our rights, not ignore them for a partisan agenda."
As The BRAD BLOG recently reported, however, Mukasey made clear in his recent Senate Confirmation hearings that he does not object to restrictive polling place Photo ID laws which critics contend may disenfranchise anywhere from 10 to 30 million largely Democratic-leaning voters who do not have such ID.
Previously, Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) have called for Tanner's firing. Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) wrote Mukasey last week to ask if he will review the matter and consider the termination of Tanner.
Tanner's objectionable comments were made several weeks ago during a panel discussion on Photo ID issues at the National Latino Congreso in Los Angeles. Tanner, who approved a controversial Georgia Photo ID law on behalf of the DoJ against the advice of the majority of the career staffers in the Voting Rights section, admitted the law would disenfranchise some elderly voters and added that while that was a "shame," minorities would somehow be positively affected by such laws since "they don't become elderly. They die first."
(A short clip of Tanner's comments is posted at left.)
The Georgia ID law was later found unconstitutional and overturned by two federal courts that compared the restriction to a modern-day Jim Crow-era poll tax.
Paul Kiel at TPM Muck has a few more thoughts in advance of tomorrow's Judiciary Committee hearings.
Though Tanner comments were originally video-taped and reported by The BRAD BLOG, the DNC press release credits Fox News.com (thanks guys!).
UPDATE: Tanner apologizes for remarks! Sort of...
The complete DNC statement from Howard Dean and Donna Brazile as just issued, follows below...
October 29, 2007
Contact: Karen Finney/Caroline Ciccone
Washington, DC - Tomorrow, the Democratic Leadership of the House Judiciary Committee will hold an oversight hearing on the Voting Section of the Department of Justice, an office politicized by the Bush Administration to promote their own divisive brand of politics. Testifying at the hearing will be John Tanner, chief of the Voting Section. Earlier this month at a meeting of the National Latino Congreso, Tanner asserted that voter ID laws do not disenfranchise minorities because "minorities don't become elderly the way white people do; they die first," a statement that has been widely criticized. [FOX News.com, 10/20/07]
Under the Bush Administration's politicized Justice Department we have seen an outright attack on voting rights. While the Democratic Party has worked to protect every American's right to vote and have that vote counted, Republicans have aimed to create roadblocks for certain Americans to exercise their right to vote through restrictive voter ID laws, voter purging, and voter intimidation tactics. In their latest scheme, the Republican Administration has manipulated the mission of the Department of Justice, firing US Attorneys who were unwilling to pursue phony "voter fraud" cases, and politicized the Civil Rights Division.
DNC Chairman Howard Dean and DNC Voting Rights Institute Chair Donna Brazile issued the following joint statement before Tanner's testimony:
"The right to vote is critical to our democracy, yet under Republicans the Justice Department has waged an outright assault on this fundamental right. John Tanner's outrageous comments underscore the GOP's utter disregard for the integrity of our nation's election system and are an affront to the spirit of the Voting Rights Act. He should be fired immediately and replaced with someone who will work to make sure that all citizens are able to vote and have their vote counted. In order to even begin to undo the damage done by Bush Republicans, if confirmed as Attorney General, Judge Mukasey must commit to replacing Tanner with someone who will protect our rights, not ignore them for a partisan agenda."
Tanner Claims Voter ID Laws Don't Help Minorities Because Minorities "Die First." At an Oct. 5 meeting of the National Latino Congreso, when asked about voter ID laws Tanner said, "'Our society is such that minorities don't become elderly the way white people do; they die first,' Tanner said. 'There are inequities in health care,' Tanner continued. 'There are a variety of inequities in this country. And so anything that disproportionately impacts the elderly has the opposite impact on minorities; just the math is such as that.'" [FOX News.com, 10/20/07]