We’ve known this was coming for months, but now it’s here – Eric Holder and the Justice Department have sued the state of Louisiana for its purported lack of diligence in signing up new voters at public assistance offices.
The lawsuit was filed in the Baton Rouge-based U.S. Middle District Court and names as defendants Schedler; Secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals Bruce Greenstein and his agency; and Ruth Johnson, secretary of the Department of Children and Family Services and her agency.
The lawsuit alleges that agency offices that grant public assistance have failed to regularly ask clients if they want to register to vote and give them forms to register.
“The voting process begins with registration, therefore it is essential that all citizens have unfettered access to voter registration opportunities,” said Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
Specifically, the suit says Louisiana offices handling food stamps, Medicaid and disability payments aren’t proselytizing voter registration every time they handle a client. That would be a violation of the 1993 Motor Voter Act.
That 1993 law requires all state offices offering public assistance to be designated as voter registration agencies. The Justice Department says those offices handled millions of applications and renewals for Medicaid and food stamps over the past four years,but only 14,725 voter registrations.
It contends those numbers show the state is not in compliance with the registration law.
Secretary of State Tom Schedler, who is charged with running the state’s voter rolls, told the Times-Picayune that his office will be fighting DOJ, and he also indicated that from Louisiana’s perspective the suit is bovine scatology.
Schedler said his office has asked the Justice Department for more details of the alleged noncompliance but was not given any. He said that instead, the Justice Department asked the state to sign a consent agreement conceding the allegation and setting out a way to address the problem. The state has refused to do so, he said
“We don’t know what we are fighting,” he said. “Show us what the allegations are.”
The word of the Justice Department’s poking around Louisiana’s public assistance offices hit back in February, and when former DOJ attorney J. Christian Adams (who became famous for his exposure of the scandalous treatment of the New Black Panther case last year) broke the story of the investigation he offered some advice it appears the state will be taking…
Leftist activist groups like Project Vote have been deeply disappointed with Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez. They don’t like the paltry litigation caseload of his Voting Section, especially after so much campaign bluster to “reopen the Civil Rights Division.” Perez still peddles this spin around the country, though the litigation docket renders it a laugh line.
So cue “Operation Sue Bobby Jindal.”
Jindal and any other state executive sued by the DOJ Voting Section should recognize that the Voting Section is a Potemkin litigation shop that wants opponents to think the odds are stacked against them.
But very few lawyers in the Voting Section have ever litigated a case to judgment after trial, not even in traffic court. They’re just not as experienced as defendants might assume.
States should take note: This Voting Section is petrified of protracted and costly litigation. That applies to both Louisiana and any other state targeted in the upcoming legislative redistricting. For example, one lawyer was so rattled by the stress of a rare trial the lawyer stayed in a hotel room through the trial instead of appearing in court.
If the DOJ dares to sue Louisiana, it will be a chance for Jindal to put Holder on trial instead.
Recall the testimony of former Voting Section chief Christopher Coates before the United States Commission on Civil Rights. Coates testified that his Obama political bosses spiked eight Motor Voter investigations of states that had severely corrupted voter rolls.
Americans have a right to know why the Obama DOJ is on a quest to enforce laws that register likely political allies, but won’t enforce laws to protect the integrity of American elections.
Jindal may soon get a chance to demand an answer.
The DOJ’s suit isn’t the first on this issue this year. In April, the NAACP filed a suit alleging Louisiana is violating the Motor Voter law as well, assumedly on the same specifics.
It’s all political, as we noted when this came up in February. It’s based on an attempt to fire up the Democrats’ base and in so doing perhaps pick off a statewide office – most prominently, perhaps, Schedler’s Secretary of State position which Caroline Fayard is gunning for.
Schedler – and Jindal – would do well to come out against this suit with guns blazing, making this the biggest issue of the statewide cycle this fall. The concept that Louisiana is somehow more criminal than the New Black Panthers because Perez and his boss Eric Holder don’t think enough welfare recipients are being signed up as voters ought to be noxious enough to a vast majority of the state’s voters as to make any politician publicly outraged by DOJ’s actions a hero to the electorate – and politicians seen to be on Holder’s side at a major disadvantage.