Obama-administration officials and their liberal camp-followers who routinely claim there is no reason to worry about election integrity because vote fraud is nonexistent suffered some embarrassing setbacks last week.
Federal law requires states to clean up their voter rolls. In 2009, the Obama Justice Department dismissed, with no explanation, a lawsuit filed by the Bush administration asking Missouri for such a clean-up. It has since taken no action against any other state or jurisdiction since it has an unofficial policy of not enforcing this requirement. But private parties are starting to force changes.
In Mississippi last Wednesday, the American Civil Rights Union won a significant victory for election integrity when a federal judge approved a consent decree in which Walthall County agreed to finally clean up its bloated voter-registration list. The county has more registered voters than the Census says it has eligible voters. The ACRU sued the county (which went for Romney in 2012) under Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which requires election officials to maintain accurate voter rolls through a regular program that removes ineligible voters.
Walthall County will have to remove felons, noncitizens, decedents, and voters who have moved away from its registration list. As part of the consent decree, the county agreed to start checking its voter list against other state and federal records maintained by the Mississippi DMV, the state departments of vital records and corrections, the local court and local tax authority, the Social Security Administration, and the Department of Homeland Security. The county must also notify local and federal law-enforcement officials when it finds individuals who registered or voted illegally, such as felons and noncitizens. The ACRU has a second suit still pending against Jefferson Davis County, Miss. (which went for Obama in 2012).
This is the first time in the 20 years that the NVRA has been in force that a conservative group has sued to enforce Section 8, while liberal advocacy groups have filed many cases to try to stop election officials from cleaning up their registration lists, a practice which they foolishly label “voter suppression.”
In North Carolina recently, mounting a criticism of the state’s new voter-ID law, former secretary of state Colin Powell claimed there was no voter fraud. The Voter Integrity Project (VIP), a local citizens’ group concerned with election integrity, released a report on Wednesday that it finally obtained from the North Carolina Board of Elections “after repeated requests.” The report shows that there were 475 cases of election fraud that the Board “believed merited a referral” to prosecutors between 2008 and 2012. The fraud included double voting, impersonation and registration fraud, and illegal voting by noncitizens and felons. Not all of this fraud would have been stopped by voter ID, but there are certainly people willing to engage in fraud and we need to take a comprehensive approach to protect the security of the voting and election process.
As VIP also points out, the report raises the important question of why local district attorneys in North Carolina have been “so negligent in prosecuting” these referrals. That is no surprise to us – we detailed in our book Who’s Counting? How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk how reluctant local prosecutors often are to prosecute election-fraud cases because of the potential political costs (like, say, being accused of voter suppression).
Finally, last Tuesday, lawyers for Arnold Davis, the retired Air Force major and resident of Guam who was told he could not register to vote for a plebiscite because he was not a “native inhabitant,” filed a brief in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in his voting-rights lawsuit. NRO previously outlined the details of the blatant racial discrimination being practiced by the territorial government of Guam against those residents who are not members of the Chamorro racial group, whom the government considers the native inhabitants of the island.
The brief, filed by Doug Cox of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher along with Christian Adams and the Center for Individual Rights, argues that the district-court judge made a fatal error when she dismissed the case, holding that it was not “ripe” for adjudication because Mr. Davis had not suffered an injury since the plebiscite had not yet been scheduled. As the brief points out, the lower-court ruling by Judge Frances M. Tydinco-Gatewood, who calls herself “a daughter of Guam and its first Chamorro woman judge” in her official biography, “ignores Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit authority holding that the denial of the right to register to vote is itself” an injury. Not only is Davis’s claim “ripe for adjudication now, but his injuries are compounded every day,” the brief argues.
Can anyone imagine a federal court in Mississippi telling black voters that they suffered no injury when they were refused registration because an election had not yet occurred? The reaction condemning such an outrageous ruling would have been swift and massive – yet Judge Tydinco-Gatewood’s ruling making this exact argument passed almost without notice in the national press.
The lawyers for Davis are asking the Ninth Circuit to strike down the “impermissible voting requirement so that all other eligible Guamanians can fully participate in the process of determining their Territory’s future without being subjected to racial discrimination,” rather than remanding the case to Tydinco-Gatewood. Such action is appropriate because prior Supreme Court decisions directly confirm “that such a race-based voting qualification is an affront to the United States Constitution.”
Given the error-ridden analysis of the district court judge and the prior case law that is directly on point, this should be a slam-dunk win for Davis. Eric Holder and his Justice Department are nowhere to be found in this case, and he never said a word about this real example of modern Jim Crow when he visited Guam last year.
- Hans A. von Spakovsky is a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation.
- John Fund is national-affairs correspondent for National Review Online.
Originally appeared in National Review Online.