How H.R. 4 Would Let Leftist Extremists At The DOJ Control The Entire Nation’s Elections

How H.R. 4 Would Let Leftist Extremists At The DOJ Control The Entire Nation’s Elections

Forcing states to run election rules by the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division is like giving that power to the Democratic National Committee.
Hans von Spakovsky and J. Christian Adams
By

Why are Democrats in Congress staging a series of show hearings to generate support for H.R. 4, “The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act”? Because, they claim, there is a wave of “voter suppression” going on across the country.

That is nothing more than a political fabrication. Requiring voters to show ID to authenticate their identity, or trying to ensure voter registration rolls are accurate and up-to-date, are not “voter suppression” and don’t prevent any eligible individual from registering and voting.

H.R. 4 isn’t just unnecessary and unjustified. It’s a dangerous bill that would give the partisan bureaucrats of the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department administrative veto powers over states’ changes to election procedures.

As Cleta Mitchell noted in The Federalist earlier this month, H.R. 4 is “even more insidious” than its cousin, H.R. 1, precisely because “it would enable the vastly well-funded Democrat ‘voting rights’ apparatus to control American elections.” This control would extend over states’ election integrity measures like voter ID (even if passed by ballot referenda approved by all of the voters of a state).

These left-wing ideologues are hostile to the equal, non-partisan enforcement of federal voting rights laws. They are a threat to each state’s constitutional power to control its own election procedures and have repeatedly exhibited their biased attitudes over the course of decades.

DOJ’s Long History of Partisanship

This blatant bias was perhaps best captured in 1994 in Johnson v. Miller, where a federal court issued a scathing opinion charging that “the considerable influence of ACLU advocacy on the voting rights decisions of the United States attorney general is an embarrassment.” The judge was “surprised” that DOJ “was so blind to this impropriety, especially in a role as sensitive as that of preserving the fundamental right to vote.”

In 2013, the inspector general of the Justice Department issued a report titled “A Review of the Operations of the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division.” No one who reads that report could possibly endorse the idea of giving these partisans the legal power to decide what the election rules are for each state. Only leftist activists who want to give their DOJ allies the power to dictate election procedures (and gain a political advantage) could pretend it’s a good idea.

The 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA) is race-neutral. It protects all voters from discrimination. But that is decidedly not the view of the Voting Section staff. The IG found “relevant evidence” demonstrating the staff “disfavored” cases where victims of discrimination were white. This resulted in their ignoring discrimination against white voters even in the most egregious of circumstances.

For example, the Voting Section failed to take direct action against a Guam law that used ancestry restrictions (like those used in the South to exclude blacks during the Jim Crow era) to prevent white and Asian residents of Guam from being able to register and take part in a plebiscite. It took an expensive private lawsuit to end Guam’s bigoted treatment of its residents, which even the liberal Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals found violated the 15th Amendment in Davis v. Guam in 2019.

Abusing DOJ Employees for Doing Their Jobs

In 2005, the Section reviewed Georgia’s voter ID law under the now-expired preclearance provision of the VRA, the same provision H.R. 4 wants to reimplement. The IG found that staff attorneys implied a newly hired attorney who was suspected of favoring Georgia’s voter ID law was a Nazi sympathizer, referring to him as “a hand-picked Vichyite.”

When this attorney recommended that the attorney general preclear the ID law, other members of the review group engaged in a series of “hostile” and “snide” actions. These unprofessional actions included dispersing customized coffee mugs mocking the attorney to staff and secretly accessing the attorney’s intranet work folder and mocking his work product with others under the email cover “lookie what I found.”

Georgia’s voter ID law was subsequently found not to be discriminatory by a federal court in 2009 and has been in force since then, vindicating the harassed staffer.

In 2006, according to the IG, staff members assigned to file a lawsuit under the VRA against black officials in Noxubee County, Mississippi, for discriminating against white voters were subjected to written and verbal abuse from peers. The team leader was called a “Klansman” in official email correspondence. A black intern who requested to join the team was repeatedly taunted as a “token,” and career employees complained to the intern’s mother that her son was acting as a racial “turncoat.”

A federal court in 2007 found that the defendants in Noxubee County had engaged in “blatant” racial discrimination in a case the majority of career staff wanted to ignore. Not only did they want to ignore it, they attempted to intimidate and harass those who were working on the case.

Racist and Threatening Comments

The IG also found that career employees identifying themselves as DOJ employees published “highly offensive and potentially threatening statements” about colleagues on prominent left-leaning news websites. These included comments about one person’s “Yellow Fever” — a demeaning reference to a presumed sexual attraction to a person who “look[s] Asian.”

Another staff employee confessed to being part of a three-person “cyber-gang” that published comments about wanting to hang a noose in a colleague’s office. This employee, who adopted an online avatar based on a black literary character who becomes a killer, made further online comments stating his desire to “choke” other employees.

The IG found other disturbing conduct by staff, including posting messages disparaging administration officials, and using extremely bigoted, racial language towards anyone they believed did not share their leftist views. When confronted with the posts about conservative coworkers, one member of the cyberbullying group initially lied under oath to the IG staff about her participation.

Lying to an IG employee is like lying to an FBI agent, and the same crime that Gen. Michael Flynn was prosecuted for allegedly committing. Yet no actions were taken against this Section staffer. In fact, sources tell us she was treated as a “hero” by other employees.

Are These The Guys You Want Controlling Elections?

If you are wondering how such biased staffers with left-wing ideological views came to predominate the staff of the Voting Section, the IG report reveals how. The IG criticized Voting Section management for specifically reaching out only to far-left organizations to fill job openings: the ACLU, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights under Law.

These are civil service positions that are supposed to be open to qualified attorneys on a non-partisan, non-ideological basis. These hiring practices slanted hiring to the left of the ideological spectrum.

What does this all mean? Forcing state and local governments to get the approval of the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division for their voting and election rules would be like giving that power to the Democratic National Committee and its political allies like the ACLU. That would be a gross abuse of power.

Hans von Spakovsky is a Senior Legal Fellow at the Heritage Foundation and J. Christian Adams is the President and General Counsel of the Public Interest Legal Foundation. Both were career lawyers in the Civil Rights Division. Adams represented the plaintiff in the Guam case.

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