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Letter to the Editor, Wall Street Journal

Justice Must Protect the Rights of Voters From Fraud

Your editorial “Justice and Vote Fraud” (Oct. 27) expresses concern about the seeming lack of interest at the Justice Department in enforcing the Help America Vote Act and investigating the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.

We are former attorneys with the department who share that concern and we ask that the department take all steps necessary to protect the integrity of our election process by vigorously investigating and prosecuting fraudulent voter registration activities, as well as doing its utmost to enforce HAVA.

In a letter dated Oct. 24, other former employees wrote to Attorney General Michael Mukasey claiming that the activities of the department before election day have essentially been limited to "placing federal observers to monitor elections pursuant to provisions of the Voting Rights Act." This claim is inaccurate as evidenced by the many lawsuits that have been filed by the department before federal elections. As the Journal pointed out, the department has recently filed two complaints and one amicus brief in three different election-related cases to enforce the Voting Rights Act and the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act.

The department has never hesitated to fulfill its responsibilities by filing lawsuits to enforce federal voting rights laws that govern access to the polls and the administration of elections even on the very eve of election day. Against this backdrop, the department's recent failure to act in the case filed by a private party against the Ohio secretary of state in which two federal courts have specifically found that the secretary of state is not complying with the verification requirements of HAVA, is difficult to fathom. Its similar lack of action in Wisconsin, where the state election board is also not complying with HAVA, is equally perplexing. This appears to be a dereliction of the department's obligations to enforce federal law.

The authors of the Oct. 24 letter also mistakenly claim that federal investigations by the Department of Justice of fraudulent voter registrations should be put on hold before an election because it will somehow have "a serious chilling effect on voters, especially minority voters." Precisely the opposite is true. It is the protection of legitimate voting activities that demands immediate and uncompromising pursuit of voter registration fraud especially during election cycles. Otherwise, the legitimate votes of both minority and nonminority voters will be threatened with vote dilution by those who fraudulently register and cast a fraudulent ballot.

We are frankly exceedingly disheartened to learn that some of our former colleagues feel compelled to importune the Attorney General to turn a blind eye to such reprehensible conduct at a time when the department's protection of every individual's voting rights should be most vigilant.

It is when law enforcement officials refuse to act that voters are intimidated and discouraged from voting because they perceive that their votes will not count due to fraud.

The Criminal Division's election crimes prosecution manual reflects this truism, stating on page nine that "Deterrence of future similar crimes is an important objective of such [election] prosecutions." Nothing could be more important than deterring voter registration fraud that negates the votes of legitimate voters. The department's policy is only intended to prevent prosecutions that could negatively affect the outcome of an election -- such as the indictment of a candidate running for office prior to the voting process, since that could become an issue "both in the campaign and in the adjudication of any ensuing election contest."

Those are obviously not relevant considerations in an investigation of a third-party organization like Acorn. Preventing fraudulent voter registration forms from being submitted cannot possibly chill "legitimate voting and campaign activities," but can only positively "affect the election itself" by fostering the appearance and reality of an honest election.

We hope that Attorney General Mukasey will assure the American people that the Justice Department intends to prosecute all voter registration and other fraud, and that he will enforce all of the federal voting rights laws that are important to preserving the fairness and security of the election process.

Hans A. von Spakovsky 
Former Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights 
Vienna, Va.

This letter was also signed by Roger Clegg, Michael A. Carvin, Wm. Bradford Reynolds, Robert N. Driscoll and Charles J. Cooper.


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