Right-Wing Media Attack DOJ's Effort To Protect Voting Rights In Wisconsin

››› ››› REMINGTON SHEPARD

Right-wing media have attacked the Department of Justice's decision to send personnel to Milwaukee to monitor the Wisconsin recall election for violations of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But Congress authorized DOJ to monitor elections for violations of citizens' voting rights, and the Bush administration DOJ often exercised this power.

DOJ Announces It Will Monitor Elections For Voting Rights Violations In Milwaukee And Elsewhere

DOJ Announces That It Is Monitoring Elections To Prevent Discrimination "On The Basis Of Race, Color Or Membership In A Minority Language Group." In a June 4 press release, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it would monitor elections in a few municipalities in the states of California, New Mexico, South Dakota and Wisconsin. From the press release:

The Justice Department announced today that it will monitor elections on June 5, 2012, in the following jurisdictions to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and other federal voting rights statutes: Alameda, Fresno and Riverside Counties, Calif.; Cibola and Sandoval Counties, N.M.; Shannon County, S.D.; and the city of Milwaukee.

The Voting Rights Act prohibits discrimination in the election process on the basis of race, color or membership in a minority language group. In addition, the act requires certain covered jurisdictions to provide language assistance during the election process. Fresno County, Riverside County and the city of Milwaukee are required to provide assistance in Spanish. Cibola, Sandoval and Shannon Counties are required to provide language assistance to Native American voters. Alameda County is required to provide language assistance to Hispanic, Chinese, Vietnamese and Filipino voters.

Under the Voting Rights Act, the Justice Department is authorized to ask the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to send federal observers to jurisdictions that are certified by the attorney general or by a federal court order. Federal observers will be assigned to monitor polling place activities in Shannon County based on the attorney general's certification and in Alameda, Riverside and Sandoval Counties based on court orders. The observers will watch and record activities during voting hours at polling locations in these jurisdictions, and Civil Rights Division attorneys will coordinate the federal activities and maintain contact with local election officials.

In addition, Justice Department personnel will monitor polling place activities in Fresno County, Cibola County and the city of Milwaukee. Civil Rights Division attorneys will coordinate federal activities and maintain contact with local election officials. [Department of Justice, 6/4/12]

Right-Wing Media Responds To The Announcement With Fear Mongering And Race Baiting

Invoking New Black Panthers, CNN's Loesch Asked "What Kind Of 'Monitoring' Will These Federal Employees Engage In?" In a June 4 post on Breitbart.com's Big Government, CNN contributor Dana Loesch claimed that "the DOJ is suddenly interested in voter fraud ... [e]ven voter fraud where it legitimately doesn't exist." She also falsely claimed that "the DOJ has ... sanctioned 'election monitoring' (after the fact) by New Black Panther Party members standing outside of the polls with nightsticks." From the post:

For those keeping score: the DOJ has, in the past, sanctioned "election monitoring" (after the fact) by New Black Panther Party members standing outside of the polls with nightsticks. That was for an election where Democrat Barack Obama was the likely victor. What kind of "monitoring" will these federal employees engage in on Tuesday, an election where Republican Scott Walker is the likely victor? [Big Government, 6/4/12]

  • In Reality, DOJ Pursued A Case Against Nightstick-Wielding New Black Panther. [Media Matters, 1/26/10]

Weasel Zippers Also Invoked The New Black Panther Party To Attack DOJ For Monitoring The Election. The conservative blog Weasel Zippers quoted a CNN article regarding DOJ's "dispatch[ing] federal observers to Milwaukee to monitor the closely-watched recall election." The post also featured the below picture with the caption, "Eric Holder's 'people.' ":

Weasel Zippers NBPP

[Weasel Zippers, 6/4/12]

Breitbart.com's Dan Riehl: "The Entire Thing Is A Fiasco." In a June 5 post on his personal blog, Breitbart.com blogger Dan Riehl wrote:

Typical Democrat strategy, why wait until the votes are counted? We already know we want a recount, if we don't win! "Wisconsin recall: Democrats prepare for recall recount" That's the mark of a sore losers party; Democrats are that. Sadly, their whiny persistence does pay off on the margins. Politics is getting increasingly worse in America.

Today is the day and I can't say I'm thrilled about this development. The right doesn't have much faith in Holder's DOJ for good reason. Can you say, Fast and Furious?

Wisconsin is one of four states whose elections the U.S. Justice Department is monitoring to ensure against discrimination. The federal officials will be monitoring the elections to make sure they comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Frankly, the entire thing is a fiasco, with much of it going ignored beneath the headlines.

Also on the ballot today are five other Republican seats up for recall: the offices of lieutenant governor and four state senators. The possible outcomes are complicated and in some cases could leave the state's voters with no consensus on which parties' policies they prefer.

The polls in Wisconsin are now open. Like many, I'll continue to monitor events as they unfold. [Riehl World View, 6/5/12]

In Fact, The Voting Rights Authorizes DOJ To Monitor Elections To Protect Against Violations Of Citizens' Right To Vote

DOJ: In 1975 The Voting Rights Act Was Broadened To "Address Voting Discrimination Against Member of Language Minority Groups." From the DOJ website regarding Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act:

In 1975, the special provisions of the Voting Rights Act were extended for another seven years, and were broadened to address voting discrimination against members of "language minority groups." An additional coverage formula was enacted, based on the presence of tests or devices and levels of voter registration and participation as of November 1972. In addition, the 1965 definition of "test or device" was expanded to include the practice of providing election information, including ballots, only in English in states or political subdivisions where members of a single language minority constituted more than five percent of the citizens of voting age. This third formula had the effect of covering Alaska, Arizona, and Texas in their entirety, and parts of California, Florida, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, and South Dakota. [Department of Justice, accessed 6/5/12]

Under The Voting Rights Act, Milwaukee Has A "Legal Obligation To Provide ... Minority Language Assistance" To Spanish-Speaking Citizens. Pursuant to a formula established by the Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, the Census Bureau determined in 2011 that Milwaukee has a "legal obligation to provide [Spanish] language assistance" to voters. [Federal Register, 10/13/11]

DOJ "Monitors Elections As Needed To Determine" If Local Language Access Programs "Are Being Implemented Effectively." From the Department of Justice's website:

The Voting Section monitors elections as needed to determine whether local programs are being implemented effectively, and whether language minority citizens are being treated with the courtesy due to all voters. [Department of Justice, accessed 6/5/12]

And, The DOJ Commonly Monitored Elections During The Bush Administration

In 2008, DOJ Monitored Elections In Alabama. In an October 7, 2008, press release, DOJ announced:

[I]t will monitor the municipal election in the town of Bayou La Batre, Ala., to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Justice Department personnel will watch and record activities during voting hours at the polling location in the town. Civil Rights Division attorneys will coordinate the federal activities and maintain contact with local election officials.

Each year, the Justice Department deploys hundreds of federal observers from the Office of Personnel Management, as well as Department staff, to monitor elections across the country. During calendar year 2008 (through September 30th), 397 federal observers and 158 Department personnel have been sent to monitor 51 elections in 47 jurisdictions in 17 states. For the 2008 elections, the Civil Rights Division will implement a comprehensive Election Day program to help ensure ballot access. As in previous years, the Civil Rights Division will coordinate the deployment of hundreds of federal government employees in counties, cities and towns across the country to ensure access to the polls as required by our nation's civil rights laws. [Department of Justice, 10/7/08]

In 2007, DOJ Monitored Florida County Election To Ensure Compliance With Requirement To Provide "Voter Assistance Information In Spanish." From a March 19, 2007, DOJ press release:

The Justice Department today announced that on Tuesday, March 20, 2007, it will monitor special elections in Osceola County, Fla., and Randolph County, Ga., to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act.

Justice Department personnel will monitor polling place activities in Osceola County, Fla. A Civil Rights Division attorney will coordinate the federal activities and maintain contact with local election officials.

Osceola County, Fla., has an obligation under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act to provide all election information, ballots and voting assistance information in Spanish as well as in English. The monitors will gather information concerning compliance.

Under the Voting Rights Act, the Justice Department is authorized to ask the Office of Personnel Management to send federal observers to areas that are specially covered in the Act itself or by a federal court order. Based on the special coverage provisions, federal observers will be assigned to monitor polling places in Randolph County, Ga.

The observers will watch and record activities during voting hours at polling locations in Randolph County and will monitor to ensure that the right of voters to participate in the election is not denied on the basis of their race. A Civil Rights Division attorney will coordinate the federal activities and maintain contact with local election officials.

Each year, the Justice Department deploys hundreds of federal observers from the Office of Personnel Management, as well as departmental staff, to monitor elections across the country. During calendar year 2004, a record 1,463 federal observers and 533 Department personnel were sent to monitor 163 elections in 106 jurisdictions in 29 states. This compares to the 640 federal observers and 110 Department personnel deployed during the entire 2000 presidential calendar year. In 2006, another record was set for the mid-term elections with more than 800 federal observers and Department personnel sent to monitor polling places in 69 jurisdictions in 22 states on election day. The Department's election monitoring program also has been very active in non-federal election years. In calendar year 2005, for example, 640 federal observers and 191 Department personnel were sent to monitor 47 elections in 36 jurisdictions in 14 states. [Department of Justice, 3/19/07, emphasis added]

In 2007, DOJ Also Monitored Elections in Mississippi and Texas. In a December 17, 2007, press release, the DOJ announced:

The Justice Department today announced that on Dec. 18, 2007, it will monitor special elections in Jefferson Davis and Tunica Counties, Miss., and Fort Worth, Texas, to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act.

Under the Voting Rights Act, the Justice Department is authorized to ask the Office of Personnel Management to send federal observers to areas that are specially covered in the Act itself or by a federal court order. Federal observers will be assigned to monitor polling place activities for the special elections in Jefferson Davis and Tunica Counties, Miss., based on the special coverage provisions.

The observers will watch and record activities during voting hours at polling locations in these jurisdictions. Civil Rights Division attorneys will coordinate the federal activities and maintain contact with local election officials.

In addition, Justice Department personnel will monitor polling place activities in Fort Worth, Texas. A Civil Rights Division attorney will coordinate these activities and maintain contact with local election officials.

Federal observers and Department personnel will monitor to ensure that the right of voters to participate in the election is not infringed on account of their race or membership in a language minority group.

Each year, the Justice Department deploys hundreds of federal observers from the Office of Personnel Management, as well as departmental staff, to monitor elections across the country. During calendar year 2004, a record 1,463 federal observers and 533 Department personnel were sent to monitor 163 elections in 106 jurisdictions in 29 states. This compares to the 640 federal observers and 110 Department personnel deployed during the entire 2000 presidential calendar year. In 2006, another record was set for the mid-term elections with more than 800 federal observers and Department personnel sent to monitor polling places in 69 jurisdictions in 22 states on Election Day. The Department's election monitoring program also has been very active in non-federal election years. In calendar year 2005, for example, 640 federal observers and 191 Department personnel were sent to monitor 47 elections in 36 jurisdictions in 14 states. [The Department of Justice, 12/17/07]

In 2006, DOJ Monitored An Election in Arkansas." From a May 22, 2006, DOJ press release:

The Justice Department today announced that it will monitor the May 23, 2006, primary election in Pulaski County, Ark.

The Department will monitor voting procedures in polling places and in the Clerk's office to ensure compliance with federal law. The Department has authority to monitor the elections pursuant to a consent decree entered on April 19, 2004, in U.S. v. Pulaski County, et al., to resolve the Department's allegations that the county had violated the National Voter Registration Act ("NVRA").

The consent decree requires county officials to develop and implement uniform and nondiscriminatory rules and policies governing the maintenance of an accurate and current voter registration roll for elections for federal office, as well as ensure that eligible applicants be registered to vote in a timely and effective manner.

Each year, the Justice Department deploys hundreds of federal observers from the Office of Personnel Management, as well as Departmental staff, to monitor elections across the country. In 2004, a record 1,463 federal observers and 533 Department personnel were sent to monitor 163 elections in 105 jurisdictions in 29 states. In 2002, the last comparable year in the four year election cycle, there were 608 federal observers and 221 Department personnel deployed to 60 elections in 40 jurisdictions in 17 states. Last year for off-year elections there were 640 federal observers and 191 Department personnel sent to monitor 47 elections in 36 jurisdictions in 14 states. [Department of Justice, 5/22/06]

In 2003, DOJ Monitored Elections In States Across The Nation To Protect Rights Of "Language Minority Group[s]." From an October 31, 2003, DOJ press release:

The Justice Department today announced that it will send 160 federal observers and 39 Civil Rights Division personnel to 15 counties in 8 states to monitor state and local elections on November 4, 2003. These activities are part of Attorney General John Ashcroft's Voting Access and Integrity Initiative.

Under the Voting Rights Act, which protects the rights of Americans to participate in the electoral process without discrimination, the Justice Department is authorized to ask the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to send federal observers to areas that are specially covered in the Act itself or by a federal court order under the Act.

"It is a priority of this Administration to ensure that all Americans are able to vote, free of hostility, harassment, or intimidation," said Assistant Attorney General R. Alexander Acosta. "The observers and Civil Rights Division personnel will monitor Election Day activities to ensure access to the polls and prevent discrimination."

For three counties, federal observer authority comes from court orders, and observers were assigned to another eight counties based on the special coverage provisions. Federal observers will monitor polling place activities in:

  • Wayne County (Hamtramck), Michigan;
  • Humphreys, Jones, Kemper, Leake, Neshoba, Newton, Noxubee and Winston counties, Mississippi;
  • Passaic County, New Jersey; and,
  • Berks County (Reading), Pennsylvania.

The observers will watch and record activities during voting hours at select polling locations in these counties. Twenty-one Justice Department personnel will coordinate the federal activities and maintain contact with local election officials.

In addition, Civil Rights Division personnel, most of whom are attorneys, will monitor elections in:

  • San Francisco County, California;
  • Jefferson County (Louisville), Kentucky;
  • Essex County (Lawrence), Massachusetts;
  • Queens County, New York; and,
  • Harris County (Houston), Texas.

The observers and Department personnel will monitor whether certain counties and localities are complying with federal voting laws, for example: complying with the minority language provisions of the Voting Rights Act; determining whether any voters are challenged improperly on the basis of their race, color, or membership in a language minority group; permitting voters who are blind, disabled or unable to read or write assistance by a person of their choice; and permitting all eligible voters to cast a ballot. [Department of Justice, 10/31/03, emphasis added]

In 2002, DOJ Monitored Elections In Arizona, Florida And New York To Ensure Fair Treatment Of Members Of Language Minorities. From a September 9, 2002, DOJ press release:

The Justice Department will send 80 federal observers to Apache and Navajo Counties, Arizona; 17 Department personnel to Miami-Dade, Orange and Osceola Counties, Florida; and 12 Department personnel to Queens and Suffolk Counties, New York to monitor the primary elections on Tuesday, September 10, 2002.

Under the Voting Rights Act, which protects the rights of Americans to participate in the electoral process without discrimination, the Justice Department is authorized to ask the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to send federal observers to areas that are specially covered in the Act.

In Arizona, information provided by the federal observers, most of whom are bilingual in English and Navajo, will assist the Justice Department in efforts to ensure that all written election materials are translated orally into the Navajo language for voters who speak it as a primary language. Additionally, observers will monitor the counties to see if trained poll workers assist Navajo speaking voters.

The observers, who are supervised by OPM, will watch and record activities during voting hours at select polling locations in the counties. Ten Justice Department attorneys will coordinate the federal activities and maintain contact with local election officials.

In Florida, Justice Department personnel are authorized to be present in the polls by U.S. District Courts under consent decrees with each county entered earlier this year. In Miami-Dade County, personnel will monitor the treatment of Haitian-American voters to ensure they have full and equal access to the voting process. In Orange and Osceola Counties, personnel, some of whom are bilingual in English and Spanish, will monitor the treatment of Hispanic voters and the delivery of Spanish language assistance to Hispanic voters with limited English proficiency. Three Justice Department attorneys will coordinate the monitoring and maintain contact with local election officials.

In New York, Justice Department personnel have obtained permission from local election officials to be present in the polls during voting hours. In Queens County, personnel will monitor whether the county has implemented procedures to comply with the minority language provisions of the Voting Rights Act with respect to Korean-American voters with limited English proficiency, and in Suffolk County, personnel will monitor Spanish language assistance procedures. Two Justice Department attorneys will coordinate the federal activities and maintain contact with local election officials. [The Department of Justice, 9/2/02]

In 2001, DOJ Monitored "Treatment Of Hispanic Voters" During Illinois Election. From a April 2, 2001, DOJ press release:

The Justice Department will dispatch 37 federal observers to the town of Cicero, Ill. to monitor the municipal general election on April 3, 2001.

Under the Voting Rights Act, which protects the rights of Americans to participate in the electoral process without discrimination, the Justice Department is authorized to ask the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to send federal observers to areas that are covered by a court order. In this case, the U.S. District Court in Chicago authorized observers in October 2000 under an agreed stipulation and order between the Justice Department and the Cook County Clerk. Last February, the Justice Department dispatched federal observers to Cicero to monitor the municipal primary election.

The federal observers, who are supervised by OPM, will watch and record activities during voting hours at select polling locations. The observers will monitor the treatment of Hispanic voters to ensure that they have full and equal access to the voting process. In addition, four Justice Department attorneys will coordinate the federal observer activities and maintain contact with local election officials. [Department of Justice, 4/2/01, emphasis added]

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