Sunday, May 06, 2007

Why the AG firings matter: Voting Rights

The Boston Globe's wonderful Charlie Savage reports today on investigations into the appointment by the Bush Administration of a replacement Attorney General in Missouri, Bradley Shlozman. Bypassing Senate confirmation under a stealth section in the USA PATRIOT Act, they appointed a young attorney with more political zeal than morals or legal chops. Shlozman is a poster child for the illegal attempts of the Bush Administration to subvert Justice (literally as well as metaphorically) for the selfish ends of advancing conservative agendas.

No stranger to election law controversy, Schlozman previously spent three years as a political appointee in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, where he supervised the voting rights section.

There, he came into conflict with veteran staff over his decisions to approve a Texas redistricting plan and a Georgia photo-ID voting law, both of which benefited Republicans. He also hired many new career lawyers with strong conservative credentials, in what critics say was an attempt to reduce enforcement of laws designed to eliminate obstacles to voting by minorities.

"Schlozman was reshaping the Civil Rights Division," said Joe Rich , who was chief of the voting rights section until taking a buyout in 2005, in an interview. "Schlozman didn't know anything about voting law. . . . All he knew is he wanted to be sure that the Republicans were going to win." ...

...the complaints about Schlozman dovetail with other allegations of political bias at the Justice Department. Last week, the department was forced to acknowledge that a key player in the US attorney firings, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's former White House liaison Monica Goodling , is under internal investigation for allegedly taking party affiliation into account when hiring career assistant US attorneys, contrary to federal law.

The Justice Department's voting rights section referees disputes over the fairness of state election requirements. Under federal civil rights law, the section must sign off on redistricting maps and new voting laws in Southern states to ensure that changes will not reduce minority voting power.

Schlozman stepped into this fray in May 2003, when he was promoted to deputy assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division. He supervised several sections, including voting rights. In the fall 2005, he was promoted to acting head of the division. ...

Schlozman and his team soon came into conflict with veteran voting rights specialists. Career staff committees recommended rejecting a Texas redistricting map in 2003 and a Georgia photo ID voting law in 2005, saying they would dilute minority voting power. In both cases, the career veterans were overruled. But courts later said the map and the ID law were illegal.
Read the article attached in the title of this post for more details.

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