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Disgrace: DOJ Fails to Protect Military Voting Rights

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Posted on July 26 2010 6:15 pm
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by J. Christian Adams

In the 2008 presidential election, 17,000 soldiers, sailors, and Marines mailed home completed ballots that were never counted.

Usually these ballots didn’t get home in time, mostly because they weren’t sent overseas early enough. One cause of this catastrophe is the Keystone Cops routine the Department of Justice Voting Section uses to enforce federal laws protecting the rights of military voters. Unfortunately, all signs point to a comic sequel in the upcoming November elections.

Congress tried to fix the problem last year by mandating that all ballots must be sent overseas at least 45 days before the election. But Military Voter Protection Project Director M. Eric Eversole has accused Justice Department officials of encouraging states to seek an exemption to the law. The law indeed grants states the right to ask the Pentagon to opt out of the law. Even worse, Eversole says the Department is telegraphing to states that it doesn’t want to pursue litigation to enforce the law.

Some voting rights are more important than others, it seems. Where have we heard this before?

Exemptions to the 45-day mailing mandate were supposed to be rare, and granted only for the most extreme emergencies. States had plenty of time to amend their laws to comply with the new 45-day window. Many states did nothing. Instead of aggressively enforcing the new protections, Justice has told states that the waiver provisions are ambiguous and encouraged waivers in numerous ways.

Senator John Cornyn, upon learning of the DOJ’s wobbly view of the new law, made it clear to the Pentagon in a recent meeting with Undersecretary Clifford Stanley that the Pentagon — which has the power to grant waivers — calls the shots. Cornyn’s message was the Pentagon should ignore any milquetoast attitudes emanating out of the Voting Section at Justice. Expect Senator Cornyn’s office to watch this issue like a hawk, which thankfully he is when it comes to military voting.

But Senator Cornyn has more reasons to worry than he knows. The investigative methods used by Justice in military voting matters are wholly inadequate. And even when the bureaucracy stumbles across violations, the Voting Section is timorous, and reluctant to aggressively litigate disenfranchisement of military voting rights.

Read More at PajamasMedia

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