Thursday, June 7, 2007

Wink, Wink, Nod, Nod

There are a lot of folks don't take the time to read the outstanding work of McClatchy Washington Bureau's Greg Gordon. Sadly, many of you may be forced to read abridged versions of his stories. I know that Fired Up Missouri routinely criticizes the Kansas City Star for making Gordon's stories more GOP friendly. Gordon is the kind of reporter who doesn't pull any punches. He is really focused on the Justice Department.

Today's story entitled Complaints abound over enforcement of voter registration law is no exception. In 1993, the Congress passed the "National Voter Registration Act," requiring state public assistance agencies to simultaneously offer applicants an opportunity to register to vote. Initial compliance was pretty good. During the period 1995-1996 state agencies registered 2.6 million voters.

Somebody figured out that poor people vote Democratic. Fast forward to 2003-2004 and compliance with the law, especially in red state America, had fallen dramatically. During that two year period just about a million voters were registered under the program. The United States Department of Justice has enforcement responsibilities. They are supposed to encourage states to comply. States have lots of reasons not to comply. Especially red states.

Gordon reports that in 2004 representatives of three public interest groups, Project Vote, Demos, a New York-based think tank, and People for the American Way, a civil rights group, met with Joseph Rich, former chief of the Justice Department's voting rights section, Alexander Acosta, the civil rights chief, and Hans von Spakovsky, then Acosta's voting counsel.

The groups' representatives told the Justice Department officials: "Look, we have physical hard evidence that states aren't doing this (enforcing the law.) They're taking their eye off the ball. We want to see some enforcement." . . .

Acosta and von Spakovsky listened quietly and then made comments to the effect of "hmmm" and "that's interesting," but took no action.
Despite claims to the contrary there has been very little enforcement during the Bush administration. Compliance in many states is still woefully inadequate. For example, Gordon reports that Missouri recently advised the federal Election Assistance Commission that its agencies took 15,568 applications in 2005-2006, down from 143,135 in 1995-1996.
When an investigator for Project Vote crisscrossed Missouri last spring, however, the picture wasn't so bright.

Nyana Miller said she went to 14 public-assistance agencies in the St. Louis and Kansas City metropolitan areas in early May and asked for benefit applications.

"Nobody ever asked me, `Would you also like to register to vote?'" as required by the law, she said.
I have focused on Missouri to make sure our Missouri readers have an opportunity to read what Gordon has discovered about their home state.

Republicans don't want the good people in the DoJ to work very hard enforcing the law. They are engaged in a campaign to suppress the Democratic vote. Republicans don't offer poor people much hope so they tend to vote Democratic. Gordon reports that according to Joseph Rich
without enforcement of the registration requirement of the 1993 law, which a Democratic Congress passed, fewer Democrats are signed up to vote. Similarly, he said, purges aimed at ineligible voters hurt Democrats by knocking poor voters off the rolls even though they're legitimately registered because they frequently change addresses.
To maximize their program to purge voter rolls, Republicans need to make sure state agencies aren't re-registering poor voters.

Gordon does go on to report improvement in some states such as North Carolina, Tennessee, Colorado and Maryland. Here is a link if you want to read a detailed report on the subject entitled Ten Years Later The National Voter Registration Act in Public Assistance Agencies, 1995-2005,A Promise Unfulfilled.

Oh, Hans von Spakovsky is currently a Federal Elections Commissioner. He is scheduled for a confirmation hearing on June 13, 2007. Bet that will be fun.