Blowing Hot and Cold on Devotion to States’ Rights
This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published September 9, 2013 on The Washington Times website.
Holder is cool with marijuana, but not with preventing election fraud.
I’m all for according public officials the dignity due their positions, but I must say that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is beginning to resemble Puff the Magic Dragon.
How else to explain his department’s memo ordering U.S. attorneys not to enforce federal marijuana laws? The action came in the wake of voters in Colorado and Washington legalizing recreational marijuana use last year.
It’s one thing to have people in Seattle beating the munchies at Starbucks, or wandering around Aspen in a Rocky Mountain high. It’s another thing, though, to turn the Justice Department into the Toking Up Facilitation Bureau for the whole country. Even Americans who want marijuana decriminalized should be alarmed at the odd legal maneuvers by federal officials high on their vision of America as Woodstock Nation.
By its action, the administration has apparently embraced states’ rights—except when they don’t.
In response to states enacting photo-ID laws to thwart vote fraud, the easy-going, states’ rights Puff turns out to be a federal, fire-breathing dragon. Over the past two years, Mr. Holder has unleashed legions of lawyers bent on crushing the state-based election-integrity movement, claiming falsely that it is “racist.” Voters apparently can be trusted to legalize marijuana, but not to approve measures aimed at ensuring honest elections.
However, something historic happened last week in Mississippi that’s going to put the damper on the vote-fraud industry and its enablers at the Justice Department. In an unprecedented consent decree, a county that had more registered voters than voting-age-eligible residents agreed to clean up its voter rolls. The Walthall County pact could be the pebble that turns into a boulder as it picks up speed.
The American Civil Rights Union (ACRU) in April sued Walthall County, a white-majority southern Mississippi county that voted for Mitt Romney in 2012, and also nearby Jefferson Davis County, which has a black majority and voted for Barack Obama. The Jefferson Davis case is still pending.
The complaints were filed under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (“Motor Voter”). Section 8 of that law requires states and counties to regularly remove the dead, duplicates, felons and noncitizens from voter rolls. Despite the reality that hundreds of counties around the nation have not been obeying the law, the Justice Department has looked the other way.
“This case should have been called United States v. Walthall County instead of ACRU v. Walthall County,” said J. Christian Adams, a former Justice Department Voting Section lawyer who, along with former Voting Section chief Christopher Coates and former Justice lawyer Henry Ross, filed the lawsuits. “We’re doing the job that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. won’t do. In fact, he’s too busy suing Texas for its new photo-ID law and abusing power in other ways to harass states that are trying to ensure election integrity.”
Indeed, Mr. Holder has snorted loudly at Texas, suing the Lone Star State on Aug. 22 over its new photo voter-ID law. He effectively ignored the Supreme Court’s June ruling that struck down key sections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The law required some Southern states, plus some other jurisdictions around the nation, to submit voting-law or redistricting changes for review by the Justice Department or a three-judge, D.C.-based federal panel.
The court majority said the nation has changed since 1965, when Jim Crow laws mostly in Southern states prevented black Americans from voting. However, Mr. Holder is locked in a time warp.
It will be interesting to see how he reacts to the election-integrity agreement in Mississippi. The consent decree has constructive elements that could be a model for the rest of the nation.
Approved under federal Judge Keith Starrett of the Southern District of Mississippi, the decree requires Walthall County to send out a mailing and check its voter registration against lists from state and federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security’s Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) database. Among other things, this should help weed out illegal aliens.
That alone should give the Justice Department dragon something big to puff on.