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In Voting Rights Speech, Perez Recalls Politicized Bush Years
Posted By Elizabeth Murphy On April 13, 2012 @ 8:29 pm In News | Comments Disabled
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division chief said his office has opened almost as many new voting rights cases in the last six months than it did in all of the last fiscal year – which itself was a record year for enforcement.
Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez said at a speech  at the Rutgers Law Voting Symposium Friday that “voting rights is indeed an all hands on deck enterprise.”
Perez has led a revival of voting rights enforcement in the Barack Obama administration, and his speech surveyed the current landscape of cases. Voting rights issues, including a partisan battle over voter identification laws , are making headlines.
In his prepared remarks, Perez also addressed some old headlines – the politicized hiring practices  of the Civil Rights Division during the George W. Bush administration, which he said led to excluding long-time division attorneys from participating in recommendations and decision making.
“This was wrong,” Perez said. “We enforce the Voting Rights Act. It is not the Republican Party Empowerment Act or the Democratic Party Empowerment Act, and we do a profound disservice to the nation … when the Voting Rights Act is allowed to be subverted for partisan purposes.”
During the Bush years, officials hostile to the divisions’ traditional civil rights mission brought fewer voting cases than in the past.
Members of what many considered an overly politicized  division included Voting Section trial attorney J. Christian Adams who quit the Justice Department and became a vocal critic of a decision reached under Attorney General Eric Holder to partially dismiss a voter intimidation case  against members of New Black Panther Party in 2009.
Adams brought the Black Panthers case, which conservatives have used to paint the Holder Justice Department as reverse racists. After complaints from conservatives, the DOJ Inspector General in 2010 opened an investigation of whether politics influenced the decision to dismiss intimidation charges against members of the fringe group, who stood outside a polling place in Philadelphia in 2008 wearing black fatigues and berets. But the IG also said it would examine voting rights enforcement under the Bush administration as well.
Perez said in his speech: “I want to stress what the Attorney General has himself recently and repeatedly emphasized: at the Department of Justice, our commitment to enforcing this law, to expanding access to voting opportunities, and to preventing discrimination in our election systems, has never been stronger.”
He continued: “Let’s work to prevent fraud; let’s not erect new, unnecessary requirements that have a discriminatory impact.”
On Monday, conservative activist James O’Keefe released a video  of a young man presenting himself as Holder at the attorney general’s home precinct in Washington, D.C. The man was asked to sign his name to receive Holder’s ballot, but he left before accepting the ballot, which would have been a clear instance of voter fraud.
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