Unknown persons placed a number of US attorneys on MoniKyle’s list to be fired, and later removed most of these from the list after the 2006 elections. What changed?
I have been poking around trying to discover whether some USA’s who were put on the list after 2004, and then removed in 2006, seemed to fit a pattern of doing nothing with potential voter fraud cases in 2004, but then getting headlines on the same issue before the 2006 elections. USA Paula Silsby of Maine seems to fit the pattern.
To keep the job, apparently, required overt actions that demonstrated a willingness to politicize the office. Much has been written about political bias in possible public corruption cases in Wisconsin, California, New Mexico, etc. The White House, it seems, wanted pre-election headlines that would scream that Democrats were crooks.
So-called “voter fraud” prosecutions by US attorneys may also have been an important determinant of who was placed on the list. These have gotten less attention than public corruption cases, but do have an important role in the GOP strategy of how to win elections, through voter suppression and intimidation.
There were actually two voter controversies in Maine in 2004, but so far I haven’t found evidence that the US attorney roused herself to become significantly involved in either one. The first was an issue of whether college students would be allowed to vote if their residences were not in Maine.
The way it was explained to me, the Maine GOP will try and assert that there are laws in certain states- like Minnesota- which prohibit those who make their primary residence in state to register to vote out of state. At the moment, the Maine GOP is trying to determine how to argue that Maine state law, which allows out of state registrants, does not supersede voting laws in other states.
In addition, Maine had not come into compliance with new national guidelines for compiling statewide voter lists. More on this below. I could not find any evidence that Maine USA Paula Silsby made any noise on either one of these potential cases.
It was after this election that Silsby was put on Kyle Sampson’s list to be fired. I don’t know whether she knew she was in trouble with Rove or not. But when the next election came around, however, the USA had found a voter controversy to get involved in, and she made it sound like voter fraud and made sure it got in the papers.
Since 2005, department civil rights lawyers have sued election officials in seven states – Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Missouri, New Jersey and New York – and sent threatening letters to others, in some cases demanding copies of voter registration data.
Joseph Rich, a former chief of the Justice Department’s Voting Rights Section, said that Hans von Spakovsky, a former division counsel, directed him in early 2005 to start what Rich called “an initiative” to enforce the provision requiring states to maintain accurate registration lists.
Department spokeswoman Magnuson said “there was no initiative” and that the agency was merely enforcing the law.
Rich said the department changed priorities under the motor voter law “from expanding registration opportunities – the primary purpose of the statute – to unnecessarily forcing jurisdictions to remove voters from their voter rolls.”
“Aggressive purging of the voter rolls tends to have a disproportionate impact on voters who move frequently, live in cities and have names that are more likely to be incorrectly entered into databases,” said Rich, who’s now an attorney with the liberal-leaning Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. Primarily, he said, this means poor, minority voters.
In late 2005, the department sued Missouri’s Democratic secretary of state, Robin Carnahan, charging that her state had failed to eliminate ineligible voters from registration rolls. A federal judge threw out the suit …
The remaining lawsuits were settled with the states pledging to abide by the law.
The suits accused Alabama Secretary of State Nancy Worley and Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, both Democrats, of failing to meet the deadline for setting up statewide databases of registered voters, which they blamed on technical complications.
In Worley’s case, the department took the extraordinary step of persuading a federal judge nominated by President Bush to relieve her of her authority to oversee the 2006 election and to give Republican Gov. Bob Riley that authority as a “special master” of the court.
Worley called the suit “incredibly political,” noting that it was filed shortly before she was due to face Democratic primary voters in a re-election bid and blaming it for her defeat.
Dunlap said the company that was hired to create the database in Maine ran into technical problems and couldn’t complete the job. Nevada, he said, used the same vendor and also experienced problems, but the Justice Department didn’t sue its Republican secretary of state, Dean Heller, who was running for Congress at the time.
Maine fired the company that was to provide the state voter database, and was sued by the DoJ. They finally reached an agreement, and USA used that opportunity to trumpet the “voter fraud” meme:
The agreement sets forth the state’s plan for ensuring that each polling place has a voting system that is fully accessible to individuals with disabilities and can generate a permanent paper record that can be manually audited. The agreement also sets forth the state’s plan for creating a statewide computerized voter registration database that will help to identify and remove ineligible voters from the state’s voter rolls. A lawsuit, filed contemporaneously with the agreement, followed a Justice Department investigation that found that Maine had not yet fully complied with HAVA’s requirements that each polling place have a voting system accessible to disabled voters, and that the state create a statewide computerized voter registration database. The Justice Department’s investigation also found that Maine’s voter rolls contained a significant number of ineligible voters.
“Maine has a proud tradition of voter participation,” said Paula Silsby, U.S. Attorney for the District of Maine. “These measures will provide immediate and lasting reform and will help ensure the integrity of Maine’s elections.”
The agreement, which must be approved by the federal district court in Maine, requires the state to provide each polling place with a voting system that is fully accessible to individuals with disabilities. The agreement also requires the state to develop a centralized statewide database and to begin conducting a program of list maintenance. Maine’s Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap added, “Maine and the Justice Department share a common goal of full and successful implementation of the Help America Vote Act. We’re working to modernize our election process and make it even stronger, and are pleased that the DOJ has agreed to our plan for doing so.”
Needless to say, after this performance, US attorney Silsby’s name was removed from the list of those USAs to be fired. Silsby’s case seems similar to those of Florida USA Gregory Miller, and Western Pennsylvania USA Mary Beth Buchanan. It will be impossible to know, without further evidence, if these voter fraud cases were the determining factor in who was put on the list to be fired or alternatively, judged a loyal Bushie. But there does seem to be a certain pattern. The GOP is a minority party of the rich and whatever ignorant southerners and “faithbased” voters it can successfully propagandize with Fox News Network. As such, it depends on various strategies for suppressing the vote of the rest of the country. The net result will be that more and more Americans will be barred from their basic right to vote, simply because they have moved, or because they have a parking ticket.
This diary may just be moving a few grains of sand, but hopefully other, more locally-based “ants” will continue the work.