Wouldn’t it be nice if American citizens could depend on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to actually enforce the law? It really doesn’t seem like much to ask of the nation’s top law enforcement agency. And yet, when it comes to a wide range of issues, perhaps most notably election integrity, the DOJ is much worse than a bystander. Under this president, the DOJ has become a partisan tool to undermine the rule of law.
And that’s why Judicial Watch is now in court in North Carolina. We are defending a client who has a very simple mission: to ensure that every vote cast is legitimate. (Unfortunately this mission is at odds with the DOJ’s seeming mandate to ensure that the electoral process remains mired in fraud and chaos.)
JW recently filed a Motion for Intervention with our client Christina Kelley Gallegos-Merrill to defend North Carolina against a DOJ lawsuit. The DOJ seeks to prevent enforcement of HB 589, which requires, among other election integrity measures, that voters present a photo ID before casting a ballot. (Yes, the DOJ is actively fighting in court to “prevent enforcement” of the law.)
In addition to representing Judicial Watch members in North Carolina, the Intervention seeks to protect the interests of Ms. Gallegos-Merrill, a former Republican candidate for local office in North Carolina who likely lost her race because of voting irregularities that would be addressed by the HB 589.
Here’s a squib from Judicial Watch’s motion, which argues that by failing to enforce Voter ID laws and other election integrity measures the DOJ “impairs or impedes” fair elections:
In 2012, [Gallegos-Merrill] ran for County Commissioner of Buncombe County and lost a very close election. She alleges that this loss was due to same-day registration during early voting and to improperly cast ballots…. Merrill has made concrete plans to run again for that office in 2014 and has taken steps to make that happen…. Any ruling from this Court reversing the repeal of same-day registration during early voting or enjoining the enforcement of North Carolina’s photo ID law, would “impair or impede” Merrill’s interests including her immediate electoral prospects for 2014.
Let’s review the timeline of how we ended up in court on behalf of both our members and Ms. Gallegos-Merrill.
On July 25, 2013, both houses of the North Carolina Legislature passed the Voter Information Verification Act (HB 589), popularly known as the “voter ID law,” overhauling the state’s election laws. The bill’s provisions require photo identification for in-person voting; eliminate same-day registration during early voting; reduce the number of days of early voting; and require provisional ballots to be cast in the proper precinct.
All sensible election integrity measures, wouldn’t you say? Not to Attorney General Holder and his DOJ.
On the day the bill passed, Holder said in a speech to the National Urban League concerning the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby Co. v. Holder, which effectively eliminated a major barrier for election integrity measures in the state, that a DOJ voting rights lawsuit against Texas, “is the Department’s first action to protect voting rights following the Shelby County decision, but it will not be our last.”
This statement was widely seen as a reference to a potential lawsuit against North Carolina over its new photo ID law. Indeed, former Holder spokesman, Matt Miller, said the next day: “From everything I’ve read, the writing’s on the wall that the North Carolina law is going to draw a DOJ challenge.”
On July 29, 2013, a group of political activists were granted an audience at the White House with Attorney General Holder, Labor Secretary (and former Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights) Tom Perez, and President Obama. The meeting attendance list represented a “who’s who” of voter fraud apologists and unofficial Obama administration “policy consultants,” including the ACLU, the NAACP, and Rev. Al Sharpton.
Sharpton subsequently told MSNBC that, based upon what he heard at the “unprecedented” meeting, he expected action regarding North Carolina “when this governor signs the bill.” And he was right.
When HB 589 was signed into law on August 12, 2013, two private lawsuits were filed in U.S. District Court. A complaint by the National Association of Colored People (NAACP) alleged violations of the 14th and 15th Amendments and the Voting Rights Act (VRA). A complaint by the League of Women Voters also alleged violations of the 14th Amendment and the VRA. On September 30, the DOJ filed its complaint, asking the court to require federal pre-clearance before the state could enforce the HB 589 provisions. On November 26, the DOJ moved to consolidate all three cases.
In our Motion for Intervention, we argue that the negative impact of voter fraud extends beyond the candidates themselves to the voters of North Carolina:
The photo ID law at issue seeks, among other things, to prevent voter fraud. Where there is such fraud, North Carolina voters are harmed by having their votes diluted. In considering Indiana’s photo ID law, the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit noted that “[t]he purpose of the Indiana law is to reduce voting fraud, and voting fraud impairs the right of legitimate voters to vote by diluting their votes – dilution being recognized to be an impairment of the right to vote.”… North Carolina’s voters, including Merrill, are threatened with the same kind of injury.
You’ll note we reference Indiana in our motion. As I mentioned to you in October, JW and its client True the Vote are in court to force Indiana to clean up its dirty voter registration rolls. Our efforts there and in North Carolina are part of our continuing Election Integrity Project, which got a huge boost last month when former DOJ Deputy Chief of the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division Robert Popper joined the team. (Popper is the lead attorney in the North Carolina case, assisted by Christopher Coates, former Chief of the Voting Rights Section of the DOJ and local counsel Gene Johnson. As one election law observer noted, we brought the big guns to this legal fight.)
Our election integrity team certainly has its work cut out. As JW has shown through a comprehensive nationwide investigation, many states appear to have problems with inaccurate voter registration lists, including: Mississippi, Iowa, Missouri, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Alabama, and California. We’ve told election officials in no uncertain terms that they must maintain accurate voter registration lists consistent with Section 8 of the NVRA or face litigation to enforce the federal law. In addition to North Carolina and Indiana, we’ve already taken legal action in Ohio and Florida.
And rather than getting assistance from the nation’s top law enforcement agency, what do we get instead? Obstruction, interference and outright undermining of the law.
The Obama DOJ is clearly hostile to the idea of one person, one vote, one time. It is shameful that the DOJ is now in court trying to stop North Carolina from fulfilling its legal obligation to prevent ineligible voters from committing voter fraud. Candidates, such as our client Ms. Gallegos-Merrill, have a right to expect to compete in clean elections. And we look forward to defending the voting rights of our supporters in North Carolina and throughout the nation.