Eric Holder’s Justice Department has targeted Republican Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration as part of a rushed investigation into whether Louisiana is complying with federal voting laws. Undercover investigators have flooded the state to interview welfare recipients to determine if state welfare offices are urging them to register to vote.
During a time when DOJ travel is purportedly frozen, these numerous DOJ staffers have been deployed for days in New Orleans and around Louisiana trolling for stories of state officials failing to urge welfare recipients to register to vote.
The DOJ will use the evidence collected from welfare recipients to support a lawsuit against Jindal’s administration under Section 7 of Motor Voter.
The “Motor Voter” law passed in 1993 contained an important congressional compromise. Welfare and motor vehicle agencies would serve as voter registration offices, while states would be obligated to conduct voter roll cleaning to purge ineligible felons and dead voters. The two provisions act together as counterparts.
The Obama administration has refused to enforce the voter list integrity provisions while making the welfare agency registration law their top priority.
DOJ Voting Section bureaucrats have been lurking outside welfare agencies in Louisiana trying to collect evidence to sue the Jindal administration. When people leave the welfare offices, investigators rush to interrogate them, asking if they were urged to register to vote. Sworn declarations of welfare recipients are snapped up.
Motor Voter also requires military recruitment centers to offer voter registration. DOJ tends to disregard recruitment centers in their undercover stings. Partisanship couldn’t possibly be the reason for the omission, could it?
Never mind that scandal-plagued DOJ political appointee Julie Fernandes announced to the entire Voting Section in 2009 that the Obama DOJ would not enforce Section 8 of Motor Voter, the list integrity provisions. The DOJ Civil Rights Division treats its jurisdiction like a legal buffet, picking and choosing which laws are worthy of enforcement and which ones they don’t like.
The Obama administration has decided to nullify the careful Congressional compromise of 1993 simply because they disagree with it. The Bush DOJ enforced both Sections 7 and 8. But a new gang is in charge with an attitude toward the separation of powers foreign to American legal traditions.
Leftist activist groups such as Project Vote have been deeply disappointed with Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez. They don’t like the paltry litigation caseload of his Voting Section, especially after so much campaign bluster to “reopen the Civil Rights Division.” Perez still peddles this spin around the country, though the litigation docket renders it a laugh line.
So cue “Operation Sue Bobby Jindal.”
Jindal and any other state executive sued by the DOJ Voting Section should recognize that the Voting Section is a Potemkin litigation shop that wants opponents to think the odds are stacked against them.
But very few lawyers in the Voting Section have ever litigated a case to judgment after trial, not even in traffic court. They’re just not as experienced as defendants might assume.
States should take note: This Voting Section is petrified of protracted and costly litigation. That applies to both Louisiana and any other state targeted in the upcoming legislative redistricting. For example, one lawyer was so rattled by the stress of a rare trial the lawyer stayed in a hotel room through the trial instead of appearing in court.
If the DOJ dares to sue Louisiana, it will be a chance for Jindal to put Eric Holder on trial instead.
Recall the testimony of former Voting Section chief Christopher Coates before the United States Commission on Civil Rights. Coates testified that his federal political bosses spiked eight Motor Voter investigations of states that had severely corrupted voter rolls.
Americans have a right to know why President Barack Obama’s DOJ is on a quest to enforce laws that register likely political allies, but won’t enforce laws to protect the integrity of American elections.
Jindal may soon get a chance to demand an answer.
J. Christian Adams served as an attorney in the Civil Rights Division and covers election law at electionlawcenter.com.