Friday, May 11, 2007

Messing with elections cuts to the heart of a democracy

Front paged at Booman Tribune, ePluribus Media and My Left Wing

Yes, there has been much discussion over the past few years about the suddenly "way off base" exit polls (2004) and shady "recounts" (Ohio 2004), last minute massive shifts in polls (Georgia 2002), "irregularities" (2000, 2002 and 2004), general voter disenfranchisement, jamming of phone banks (New Hampshire) or destruction of voter registrations. But most of the country explains that away as something that happens every election (frequently citing Chicago, 1960 as one example) and something that, while pretty crappy, happens.

But what if the American public is presented with not just these statistics, general allegations, anecdotal stories of vote flipping or easily hackable voting machines and other first or second hand accounts of experiences by voters on election day, but also specific examples of a massive effort conducted by the highest levels of the Bush administration with tacit approval by the republican Congressional majority that the entire election system was being gamed from the inside?

Because, folks, this is the big enchilada - this is the most basic premise of a democracy - the ability of We the People to vote for our leaders (however flawed the nominating process is), to know that our votes will be counted and to not have the government working ACTIVELY against that premise. However, this is what we have here - the Bush administration, the Justice Department, its' Voting Rights Section and the Republican National Committee (among others) using its power to subvert the electoral process.

No, this isn't news to us. In fact, there have been a number of posts here about this over the past few years. Georgia10 had an excellent series of posts about Ohio and the 2004 election. Jesselyn Radack has had a number of posts on the US Attorney scandal which focused on election fraud, this one on Missouri. In fact, if you do a quick search, you will find over 25 diaries in the past 2 weeks alone with the tag "election fraud".

The coordinated effort is massive. It is actually way more than massive. And if the whole sordid story ever makes it into the public consciousness, then it could doom the republican party for a generation. Back in February, I did a story with ePluribus Media regarding Bud Cummins and his replacement, Tim Griffin. In it, we noted Griffin's ties to Rove and his role in "caging" during the 2004 elections:

Another of the most important reasons why Griffin's appointment deserves a harder look is from his involvement in "caging," which "appeared to be" a Republican Party effort to challenge the ballots of thousands of voters in largely African American communities through mailings targeting those who were serving in Iraq. Since they were stationed out of country, they were not at the address to which the mailings were sent, and the letters were returned as "not deliverable," establishing "cause" to strike the intended recipients from the voter roles. Who sent the originating email with respect to this caging "program"? Tim Griffin.

This is someone who was appointed as US Attorney under the "new" Patriot Act clause (and even admitted that he wouldn't make it through Senate Confirmation), and right on cue, is being investigated FOR VOTER FRAUD for his role in the caging scheme. We also found out from Murray Waas this week that the White House was concealing emails that linked Rove to Griffin's hiring:

The Bush administration has withheld a series of e-mails from Congress showing that senior White House and Justice Department officials worked together to conceal the role of Karl Rove in installing Timothy Griffin, a protégé of Rove's, as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas.

The withheld records show that D. Kyle Sampson, who was then-chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, consulted with White House officials in drafting two letters to Congress that appear to have misrepresented the circumstances of Griffin's appointment as U.S. attorney and of Rove's role in supporting Griffin.

Yesterday, the phenomenal McClatchy Washington Bureau reported that the White House was urging the Justice Department to pursue voting fraud cases against Democrats in three states BEFORE THE 2006 ELECTIONS:

Only weeks before last year's pivotal midterm elections, the White House urged the Justice Department to pursue voter-fraud allegations against Democrats in three battleground states, a high-ranking Justice official has told congressional investigators.

In two instances in October 2006, President Bush's political adviser, Karl Rove, or his deputies passed the allegations on to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' then-chief of staff, Kyle Sampson.

Sampson tapped Gonzales aide Matthew Friedrich, who'd just left his post as chief of staff of the criminal division. In the first case, Friedrich agreed to find out whether Justice officials knew of "rampant" voter fraud or "lax" enforcement in parts of New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and report back.

There were wide reports and more than speculation that fired Washington US Attorney John McKay didn't please his bosses by not pursuing the electoral fraud that didn't exist in the 2004 Gubernatorial race - a very close race that was won by the Democratic Party candidate.

But a very interesting and large piece to this puzzle that has gotten way too little exposure is the Justice Department's own Voting Rights Section. ePluribus Media has a great background story on this and I am working on them with one on Robert Popper - the Voting Rights Section's Special Counsel which you can look for over the next week or so.

But, consider that the Voting Rights Section is supposed to enforce the Voting Rights Act, the Help America Vote Act, protect minority rights in redistricting, make sure that voters are not disenfranchised and are able to have their votes counted. Makes sense, yes? Now consider the following:

  • Popper has vast experience with redistricting cases - but in a way that challenges old district lines in order to redraw them "more fairly" - focusing almost exclusively on redrawing largely minority districts;

  • Other cases being pursued by the Voting Rights Section target districts for "not properly eliminating ineligible voters from the voting rolls". As opposed to making sure that voters CAN vote - they are focusing on cleansing (my word) the voting rolls - again, in districts that have had a large increase in Democratic registrations or are largely minority districts;

  • Over 50% of the career attorneys in the Civil Rights Division have been forced out in one way or another over the past two years;

  • These attorneys were replaced largely with people affiliated with the Federalist Society or the Republican National Lawyers Association; and

  • Less than half of these "new attorneys" have little to no experience in civil rights cases at all.

There are more examples in the ePluribus Media story, including the following quote from one of the career attorneys who was forced out:

"Political appointees made it quite clear that they did not wish to draw on the expertise and institutional knowledge of career attorneys. Instead, there appeared to be a conscious effort to remake the Division's career staff."

There was also this editorial in the LA Times which, in addition to mentioning the Missouri story linked above (by Jesselyn Radack) has this stunning observation of the Justice Department under the Bush administration:

Under the Bush administration, however, all that changed. Over the last six years, this Justice Department has ignored the advice of its staff and skewed aspects of law enforcement in ways that clearly were intended to influence the outcome of elections.

It has notably shirked its legal responsibility to protect voting rights. From 2001 to 2006, no voting discrimination cases were brought on behalf of African American or Native American voters. U.S. attorneys were told instead to give priority to voter fraud cases, which, when coupled with the strong support for voter ID laws, indicated an intent to depress voter turnout in minority and poor communities.

The rot and stench is deep and strong. But this story isn't picking up much steam.....yet. The right to elect your leaders or representatives is the most basic tenet of a democracy. The "purple finger" is frequently cited as an example of "freedom on the march in Iraq". Yet, here at home, many have been quick to explain away each and every instance of potential fraud, each case of intimidation or disenfranchisement, each irregularity or exit polls that defy all logic and reason.

Now we are staring straight at a growing mound of evidence that there was a clear and concerted effort to undermine that most basic premise of a democracy by those who wrested control of our government in 2000. The party's national committee was actively involved. The Justice Department was actively involved - both from the prosecution side and the defending of rights side. The Executive Branch was involved in making the decisions of who to appoint, what cases should be prosecuted and how.

It is rotten to the core. And it begs the question of whether a democracy is still a democracy when one party is looking to take away the very right to a fair and free election.

No comments: