White House Wants DOJ Action On Ohio Voting Case

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Looks like the White House is having trouble getting out of the habit of using the Department of Justice for political purposes.

The Washington Post reports that President Bush has asked DOJ to look into a request by House Republican leader John Boehner that would force Ohio’s Secretary of State to provide local election officials with information on 200,000 newly registered voters who have mismatched registration data. That could make it possible for Republicans to issue challenges to many of these voters, perhaps forcing them to cast provisional ballots.

Last week the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Ohio Republicans, who were seeking to force the Secretary of State, Democrat Jennifer Brunner, to provide the information on mismatches to local officials, did not have standing to bring the case.

Boehner announced yesterday in a press release that he had sent a letter earlier this week to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, asking him to take action, but received no response. He then turned to the White House for help — warning in a letter to President Bush that if no action were taken, “there is a significant risk if not a certainty, that unlawful votes will be cast and counted.”

White House Press Secretary Dana Perino characterized the move as “a routine step that would be taken for any such request from a congressional leader,” according to the Post.

But it’s worth remembering that much of the politicization of the Department of Justice that was exposed in the U.S. Attorneys scandal centered on voting issues, and specifically on an effort by the White House and DOJ to prioritize voter fraud prosecutions despite scant evidence that such fraud was occurring.

As voting rights groups point out, the mismatches at issue in this case are often nothing more than that the name on a voter’s drivers license includes a middle initial, while that on his voter registration form does not.

Jon Greenbaum of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, told the Post: “This is taking the politicization of this to a new level.”

We’ll be watching this closely.