This column by ACRU Policy Board Member J. Christian Adams was published June 4, 2015 by PJ Media.
The Obama Justice Department has quietly launched an effort to erode traditional state powers over elections.
In the first instance, Attorney General Loretta Lynch has drafted and sent a bill to Congress which would force state election officials to turn over power to tribal governments to determine the location and number of polling places on Indian reservations in state-run elections.
In the second instance, the DOJ is seeking to erode the power of states to prohibit the mentally incompetent from voting, as long as they express a desire to vote to their caregiver, often a unionized government worker.
In both instances, the Justice Department is acting at the behest of activist groups and undermining powers the Constitution gives to the states.
Given the election results of the last twenty years, it might be surprising to learn that the California constitution says that “no idiot or insane” person shall be entitled to vote. Understand that “idiot” is a legal term used to denote someone who is literally incompetent or incoherent. Other states use the term “imbecile” or the more modern, ‘incompetent.”
While the terms may be anachronisms, the reasons behind the prohibition on voting are as valid today as they were in 1849. Allowing someone who is not competent or aware to vote corrupts elections — and invites the patient to be victimized by someone effectively stealing that patient’s vote.
Under the Qualifications Clause of the Constitution, states are vested with the total power to determine who is eligible to vote, subject to bans on racial discrimination in the 15th Amendment, gender discrimination in the 19th Amendment, payment of poll taxes in the 24th Amendment, or the 18-year-old vote in the 26th Amendment.
The Obama Justice Department, however, has launched an effort against California to erode powers under the Qualifications Clause, claiming that practices disqualifying the incompetent might violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Civil Rights Division has told California it is opening an investigation into how it decides who is incompetent and thus disqualified to vote. The focus of the investigation is on the Los Angeles Superior Court, the entity which decrees incompetence and then often appoints public guardians to oversee the care of those deemed incompetent to take care of themselves and to vote.
The form used by the court touches on whether the patient has dementia, is in a “state of lethargy” or “stupor,” is able to concentrate, recognize familiar faces, is “nonsensical,” “incoherent,” or has hallucinations.
The Disability and Abuse Project sparked the Justice Department action. The project is a function of a Spectrum Institute and the American Association for Single People (AASP), an organization which aggressively opposes the value of marriage and boasts a board member who is an “advanced practitioner in ‘Thought Field Therapy,’” to some, a discredited New Age pseudoscience. The Spectrum Institute/AASP enjoys tax exempt 501(c)(3) status from the IRS.
Though it informed the Spectrum Institute about the action it was taking in California, the DOJ never informed the public. The Justice Department action also comes just in time to bolster support for California Senate Bill 589, which would give those deemed incompetent and put into a conservatorship the right to vote, as long as they express a “desire to participate in the voting process.”
In Los Angeles County, members of public sector unions and the purple-shirted SEIU are responsible for the care of many for whom the Superior Court has appointed a conservator.
These union members could serve as a witness to the fact that a patient has expressed “a desire” to vote. Indeed, Oscar Valladares serves as the Los Angeles Deputy Public Conservator as Public Guardian, the office with custody and care over many individuals the Justice Department’s action would affect. Valladares is also on the executive board of the SEIU:
The Justice Department’s actions in California could force the state to give those deemed incompetent a ballot as long as the patient expresses a desire to vote, perhaps to SEIU official Valladares or someone in his office. That invites trouble — just the sort of partisan trouble this Justice Department seems to encourage.
The Obama DOJ is also eroding state power over elections in Indian country, again with politically partisan results.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch has sent draft legislation to Congress that would strip state and local election officials of traditional state election powers and hand them over to tribal governments. The bill would vest tribes with the power to dictate where and how many polling places in state elections are on tribal lands.
The legislation would shift power away from state and local election officials to place polling sites, and give it to tribal governments. Naturally, this would allow the tribal government to aid the election of Democrats. It would also apply nationwide, but could affect elections in places like the Dakotas, Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Montana.
As in California, this request also comes at the behest of activist groups, namely the ACLU. The ACLU has been litigating against South Dakota for years, trying to wrest control of polling place decisions from the state. The Justice Department, too skittish to take on any hard litigation directly against South Dakota, has sniped from the sidelines. Lynch’s legislation, however, would give the ACLU what it wants — and nationwide.
The legislation would allow a new cause of action for groups to sue local election officials in federal court to seize control over polling place decisions, to give them to tribal governments, and to reward the lawyers with fat attorney fee awards. Naturally, the proposal is disguised as a process rule, but is really designed to help Democrats win elections.
Yet there is no need for this law.
Every state has election day polling places throughout Indian reservations. But the Democrats have been trying to help their Get-Out-the-Vote campaigns by agitating for numerous in-person early voting sites placed on reservations. They want states to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to give Indians a benefit that non-Indians don’t enjoy in many places: numerous early voting sites on the reservation, instead of only at the county courthouse.
The Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department is a fully integrated component of the Democrat Party. Federal power is used to influence and alter election process laws to give Democrats a bit of an advantage here, a bit more there. The new Attorney General is no different than the last Attorney General.
Whether Republicans in Congress can see through the civil rights rhetoric and understand the raw partisan play remains to be seen.