Threatening Electors Violates Federal Law. So Why Isn't Loretta Lynch Doing Anything About It?

COMMENTARY Election Integrity

Threatening Electors Violates Federal Law. So Why Isn't Loretta Lynch Doing Anything About It?

Dec 15th, 2016 4 min read
COMMENTARY BY
Hans A. von Spakovsky

Election Law Reform Initiative and Senior Legal Fellow

Hans von Spakovsky is an authority on a wide range of issues – including civil rights, civil justice, the First Amendment, immigration.

Before Donald Trump’s stunning victory on November 8, liberals called for acceptance of election results. But since the election didn’t go as they’d planned, some have taken to harassing and intimidating electors in an attempt to change the election results. Some of these threats may violate federal law, yet the Justice Department acts strangely uninterested in investigating.

Following the election, a coalition of liberal activist groups launched #NotMyPresident Alliance, an organization dedicated to fighting the inauguration of President-elect Trump. As part of that effort, #NotMyPresident distributed personal contact information — including telephone numbers and addresses — of electors in states that voted Republican.

According to Buzzfeed, Maddie Deming, a strategist for the group, said they wanted to put electors in the spotlight and “to hold them accountable for their decision.” Whatever the intent, the initiative has produced a deluge of threats.

Electors across the country report receiving not only a flood of emails and phone calls to change their vote to Hillary Clinton but death threats as well. Alex Kim, a Texas Republican elector, reported that he and other electors had “receiv[ed] thousands of emails a day” urging them to vote for Clinton, including threats of harm and death. Arizona’s electors have reported harassment as well.

Michael Banerian, a Michigan GOP elector, received some of the most extreme threats according to The Detroit News. One email, Banerian said, talked about “shoving a gun in my mouth and blowing my brains out.” Another told him to “do society a favor and throw yourself in front of a bus.”

In Georgia and Idaho, the threats have been so extreme that the secretaries of state both released statements calling for the harassment to end. But the federal law enforcement agency that should be acting to stop these threats — the U.S. Department of Justice — has not done a thing.

Section 11b of the Voting Rights Act (52 U.S.C. §10307) makes it a crime for anyone to “intimidate, threaten, or coerce, or attempt to intimidate, threaten, or coerce any person for voting or attempting to vote.” While this has been applied in the past to ordinary, everyday voters in federal elections, the language does not limit it only to such voters. Electors who are casting their votes for president and vice president are also protected by Section 11b since the Electoral College is an essential part of the federal voting process. This is supported by Section 14(c) of the VRA, which says that “voting” includes “all action necessary to make a vote effective in any primary, special, or general election.” Obviously, the votes cast by Americans on Nov. 8 will not be effective if the electors they chose are intimidated from casting their votes in the Electoral College.

Federal law (3 U.S.C. §7) requires electors to cast their votes on the first Monday after the second Wednesday of December, which this year is Dec. 19. These are recorded as “certificates of vote,” signed, sealed, and delivered by December 28 to the president of the Senate and the archivist of the United States (3 U.S.C. §11). Congress is required to meet on Jan. 6, 2017 in joint session to count the Electoral College votes (3 U.S.C. §15).

The Dec. 19 deadline for the electors to cast their votes is less than three weeks away, which makes it essential that the Justice Department act immediately — and very publicly — to deter and stop these threats and this intimidation. Yet the website of the Justice Department’s Office of Public Affairs contains no announcement of an investigation into these threats. Moreover, we can be pretty certain that if investigators had actually contacted any of the threatened electors, it would have been reported in the press by now. The obvious conclusion is that the Justice Department has done nothing to enforce Section 11b against those who have tried to intimidate and who have threatened electors with bodily harm if they vote for Donald Trump.

The U.S. Justice Department, which is charged with protecting all voters, should act to quash this outrage immediately.

Unfortunately, that’s not surprising. After nearly eight years of operation, the Obama administration has yet to file a single Section 11b case. Indeed, shortly after Mr. Obama entered the Oval Office, his Justice Department essentially dismissed almost all of a pending, high-profile Section 11b case concerning voter intimidation by the New Black Panther Party in Philadelphia.  Under Attorney General Eric Holder, the Civil Rights Division had the open-and-shut case dismissed because its “progressive” new leaders did not believe the Voting Rights Act should be used against black defendants to protect white voters. This radical position ignores the fact that the law is race-neutral and protects all voters.

Seriously, if Hillary Clinton had won and Donald Trump supporters were threatening Clinton electors with bodily injury, does anyone doubt that the Justice Department would have acted immediately to enforce Section 11b?

Making threats and attempting to intimidate electors is as anti-democratic as it gets. The U.S. Justice Department, which is charged with protecting all voters, should act to quash this outrage immediately. Failure to do so will just be further evidence that this Justice Department does not believe in equal protection under the law.

This piece first appeared in the Conservative Review.