This column by ACRU Policy Board Member J. Christian Adams was published on August 27, 2013 on The PJ Tatler website.
Hans von Spakovsky tears apart the merits of the complaint the Department of Justice Voting Section has filed to stop Texas Voter ID. The complaint reads as if it was drafted by a progressive snake oil salesman. It is full of irrelevant slights of hand:
The complaint is filled with the same type of misdirection intended to distract the audience. For example, it outlines the different percentages of black, Hispanic, and white populations in Texas. But it first uses total population, which includes lots of people who aren’t eligible to vote. It then lists voting-age population percentages, which is also a largely useless figure because of the significant number of Hispanics who are not citizens and African Americans who are convicted felons, and, therefore, not eligible to vote. It finally gives the percentages by voting-age members of the franchise, after having confused this issue with information not relevant to the number of individuals affected by a voter-ID law. (This is compounded by its use of surname-analysis to identify Hispanics, a notoriously inaccurate analysis tool.)
The complaint lists the poverty levels, income data, and car-ownership rates of blacks and Hispanics in comparison with whites. It makes a big deal out of the claim that Hispanics and blacks experience poverty at higher rates than whites, but this is completely irrelevant to the voting discrimination claim in the complaint. Being poor is not a protected class under the Voting Rights Act, and the total number of poor whites in the state is actually larger than the total number of poor Hispanics and blacks. Justice is trying to claim that if a voting law somehow affects poor people more than others (and it has no evidence that is true), because of racially disparate poverty rates, it is voting discrimination and therefore violates Section 2. Holder is trying to bootstrap an unprotected class of voters onto a class of voters protected under the law.
The progressive narratives would have never been allowed in a pleading filed by the Voting Section during any previous administration. Back then, the managers had sense, or at least a measure of a backbone to resist such nonsense as mentioning car ownership in a voting case.
Meredith Bell-Platts: The other new deputy chief hired by the Voting Section, Meredith Bell-Platts, also comes from the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, where she, too, spent nearly 10 years. Much of her time there was devoted to blasting voter ID requirements, which she claimed were motivated by people who do not want to see blacks vote (an issue on which she consistently lost in court). Before arriving at the ACLU, Ms. Bell-Platts was a founding member of the Georgetown Journal of Gender and the Law, a publication whose stated “mission is to explore the impact of gender, sexuality, and race on both the theory and practice of law” and thereby “complement a long tradition of feminist scholarship and advocacy at the [Georgetown] Law Center.”
Anna Baldwin: While all of the new trial attorneys hired into the Voting Section have streaks of radicalism, few can match Ms. Baldwin. A financial contributor to the Obama presidential campaign, she clerked for two liberal Clinton appointees on the federal bench and then worked briefly at Jenner & Block (a D.C. law firm which has been a major feeder of Democratic political appointees to the Obama administration), where she primarily pursued liberal positions in pro bono litigation. During law school, she interned at the International Labor Rights Fund and Women’s Agenda for Change.
Prior to that, Baldwin served for three years as field coordinator for Equality Florida, where she “coordinated lobbying and state legislative policy work on behalf of Florida’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender communities.” Meanwhile, in her undergraduate days at Harvard, she was a member of the “Queer Resistance Front” and was frequently covered in the Harvard Crimson for her radical antics. A review of these campus newspaper articles suggests that Ms. Baldwin will have to work very hard to separate her activist politics from her role as an apolitical civil servant. Then again, if she takes her cues from most of her Voting Section colleagues, she won’t even need to attempt such separation. As the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case showed, partisanship and law enforcement are one and the same in Holder’s Civil Rights Division.
Daniel Freeman: Mr. Freeman comes to the Voting Section following a fellowship at the New York Civil Liberties Union. He previously interned at the ACLU, where he assisted the organization with its efforts to attack the Bush administration’s national security policies. He also helped to challenge the “state secrets privilege” and to support the rights of terrorist detainees at Guantanamo Bay during an internship at Human Rights First.
On his resume, Freeman proudly notes his membership in the liberal American Constitution Society, as well as his service as co-chair of the Yale Law School Democrats. Of course, being a member of the American Constitution Society does not bar you from federal employment. Yet the Bush administration was castigated for hiring lawyers who were members of the Federalist Society. Incidentally, Mr. Freeman is helping lead the Voting Section’s review of redistricting submissions from the state of Alabama.
Elizabeth Westfall: Last, but certainly not least, is Ms. Westfall. According to the Federal Election Commission website, she contributed nearly $7,000 to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential election campaign, contributed another $4,400 to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, contributed $2,000 to Wesley Clark’s presidential campaign in 2004, contributed $3,000 to John Kerry’s presidential campaign and compliance fund in 2004, contributed $500 to former Senate Democratic Majority Leader Tom Daschle’s PAC in 2004, and contributed $2,000 to Hillary Clinton’s U.S. Senate campaign in 2000.
In addition to this incredible funding of Democratic candidates, Westfall worked for six years at the far-left Advancement Project, directing its Voter Protection Program and managing its litigation and advocacy activities. She also previously served as a staff attorney at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights in its Fair Housing Group, and worked on the Hill as a legislative assistant to then-Congressman Bill Richardson (D-NM).
On Westfall’s self-drafted Harvard alumni biography, she notes that she has testified before the U.S. Congress about supposed “barriers” to voter registration, “unwarranted” purging of the voter rolls, and voter caging. While those subjects may sound benign, in fact, the Advancement Project and the Lawyers Committee claim that common-sense reforms like voter ID or requiring proof of citizenship are “barriers” to voting and registration and that removing voters who have moved or otherwise become ineligible to vote is “unwarranted purging.”
“Vote caging,” an imaginary crime the Left dreamed up several years ago, faults any efforts by private parties to challenge the eligibility of voters when first-class mail sent to their registration addresses is returned by the U.S. Postal Service as undeliverable because they no longer live there. This despite the fact that federal law specifically authorizes election officials to use the USPS for that very purpose. Just the kind of neutral, detached attorney a state wants reviewing its redistricting submissions and applying the heavy hand of the federal government in voting rights enforcement actions.