More on the DOJ Civil Rights Division

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With Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testifying this morning, it’s good to remember just how far the Bush Administration will go (and has gone) to politicize arms of the federal government. I’ve written about this before, but McClatchy brings some new information to the forefront today:

For six years, the Bush administration, aided by Justice Department political appointees, has pursued an aggressive legal effort to restrict voter turnout in key battleground states in ways that favor Republican political candidates.

The administration intensified its efforts last year as President Bush’s popularity and Republican support eroded heading into a midterm battle for control of Congress, which the Democrats won.

It’s a lenghty piece, including some very interesting tidbits:

In November 2004, Arizona residents passed Proposition 200, the toughest state voter ID law to date, which requires applicants to provide proof of citizenship and voters to produce a photo ID on Election Day. The Voting Rights Act state requires states to show that such laws wouldn’t impede minorities from voting and gives the Justice Department 60 days to approve or oppose them.

Career voting rights specialists in the Justice Department soon discovered that more than 2,000 elderly Indians in Arizona lacked birth certificates, and they sought their superiors’ approval to request more information from the state about other potential impacts on voters’ rights. Spakovsky and Sheldon Bradshaw, the division’s top deputy and a close friend of top Gonzales aide Kyle Sampson, a former Bush White House lawyer, denied the request, said one of the former department attorneys.

Check the whole thing. While you’re at it, do you remember all the claims of voter fraud made by Republicans during the last few elections cycles? I’m late to the party in mentioning it, but here’s the gist:

In 2002, DOJ changed their guidelines to make it easier to prosecute voter fraud. They made it a priority to find voter fraud cases. They appointed a clean slate of U.S. Attorneys loyal to the Republican Party. They set up training classes to help prosecutors charge and win voter fraud cases. But after all that, they managed to demonstrate fraud in a grand total of only 86 cases over four years. And even then, many of the cases of confirmed fraud were simply mistakes, while virtually none of them were actually designed to affect the outcome of an election.

So in four years of concerted effort, the Bush Justice Department managed to come up with maybe half a dozen cases of actual voter fraud. In other words, two or three per election cycle. Mostly in rural districts for low-level offices. And because of this, we’re supposed to believe that it’s a high priority to spend millions of dollars on voter ID laws that plainly do nothing except make it harder for poor people to vote.

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