Human Events Blog

Eric Holder talks to himself about Voter ID

In a December 2011 speech, Attorney General Eric Holder claimed he was waging a relentless battle against effective voter identification because scads of terrified Americans were begging him for protection from the vicious racists who wanted to take away their votes:

In 1965, when President Johnson signed the landmark Voting Rights Act into law, he proclaimed that, “the right to vote is the basic right, without which all others are meaningless.”

Today, as Attorney General, I have the privilege – and the solemn duty – of enforcing this law, and the other civil rights reforms that President Johnson championed.   This work is among the Justice Department’s most important priorities.   And our efforts honor the generations of Americans who have taken extraordinary risks, and willingly confronted hatred, bias, and ignorance – as well as billy clubs and fire hoses, bullets and bombs – to ensure that their children, and all American citizens, would have the chance to participate in the work of their government.   The right to vote is not only the cornerstone of our system of government – it is the lifeblood of our democracy.   And no force has proved more powerful – or more integral to the success of the great American experiment – than efforts to expand the franchise.

Despite this history, and despite our nation’s long tradition of extending voting rights – to non-property owners and women, to people of color and Native Americans, and to younger Americans – today, a growing number of our fellow citizens are worried about the same disparities, divisions, and problems that – nearly five decades ago – LBJ devoted his Presidency to addressing.   In my travels across this country, I’ve heard a consistent drumbeat of concern from many Americans, who – often for the first time in their lives – now have reason to believe that we are failing to live up to one of our nation’s most noble, and essential, ideals.

(Emphasis mine.)  Holder went on to quote the words of Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), who claimed that voting rights for minorities were “under attack” by a “deliberate and systematic attempt to prevent millions of elderly voters, young voters, students, [and] minority and low-income voters from exercising their constitutional right to engage in the democratic process.”  Common-sense voter ID laws were then identified as a tool of this unspeakable conspiracy.

You’ve got to hand it to the defenders of vote fraud: they never miss an opportunity for theatrics, and no rhetoric is too hyperbolic for them.  In America today, the innocent choice of a word that offends certain pressure groups can spell the end of a career, but the people who want to keep a ridiculous circus running at our voting booths are allowed to impute the most horrific, insulting motives to their adversaries with impunity.  Notice how they’re never required to offer a shred of proof for their constant allegations that rank racial prejudice animates those who want the electoral process to be as secure as the purchase of beer.

But the National Center for Public Policy Research did insist on some proof that Attorney General Holder has been hearing this “drumbeat of concern from many Americans” who fear that voter ID laws are a conspiracy to disenfranchise them.  The conservative think tank filed a Freedom of Information Act request on April 13, asking for copies of the communications Holder claims to have received from citizens who want him to block voter ID laws.

The deadline for the Justice Department to respond to this request was May 11.  Any student of the deadly Fast and Furious scandal reading this will not be surprised to learn that DOJ missed this deadline.  Eric Holder is not very good at putting together copies of his correspondence, either internal or external.

In fact, the Justice Department finally responded to the National Center’s FOIA request on November 9, just under six months after the deadline, and conveniently after the 2012 elections.  The response was, “No records responsive to your request were located.”  In other words, there is no record of the communication from citizens that Holder cited as a primary motivation for his war against Voter ID.

Justin Danhof, General Counsel for the National Center for Public Policy Research, did not mince words about this outcome:

In 2008, the Supreme Court definitively ruled that state-level voter ID laws are a constitutional way for states to help protect their citizens from voter fraud. That is the law of the land. Attorney General Holder ignored the Court, setting the Justice Department on a course to stomp out popular and bipartisan voter ID measures at every turn.  Thanks to our FOIA request, it now appears Holder’s public justifications for his crusade were premised on a lie. So what was the real reason the DOJ has made challenging voter ID such a priority?

According to the Justice Department’s response, Attorney General Holder did not have a single documented communication with any American claiming to fear for the safety of their voting rights.  Holder apparently misled the public in order to give a credible rationale for his inane attack on commonsense voter protection measures. There has been speculation that Holder may step down in January. If he cannot be accountable for his actions, especially in defiance of Supreme Court precedence on the issue, he should simply resign now.

Danhof also couldn’t help but notice that it took an extra six months beyond the legally mandated FOIA deadline for the Justice Department to admit these communications didn’t exist, and called the post-election timing of the response “suspicious.”  It’s weird that the federal government, which is so very eager to impose iron laws upon the rest of us, can just ignore deadlines like that.  Presumably the FOIA laws are just “guidelines,” like the laws that say only legal U.S. citizens can vote in our elections.  No one is actually supposed to enforce the crazy things.

“Voter fraud is very real, and its impact on local and national elections cannot be overstated,” said Danhof.  “Holder and his cronies have been assaulting voter ID laws under a false premise. It is time that his campaign against common sense and the Constitution come to an end.”  He has a lot more evidence for those assertions than the Attorney General has for his.

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