Conyers Has More Questions For DOJ’s Tanner

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House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers has issued a statement in in response to Paul Kiel’s reporting earlier today on the unprecedented written public assurance that DOJ voting rights chief John Tanner gave to election officials in Ohio that the Justice Department had found no evidence of intentional African-American voter disenfranchisement in the 2004 election.

As Paul reported, Tanner wrote a June 2005 letter to election officials in Columbus, Ohio, offering a lengthy explanation for why the Department had not discovered sufficient evidence of discrimination, the effect of which was to “poison the well” for future litigation or investigation of the alleged election improprieties.

In his statement, Conyers says:

“I am concerned about the extreme lengths Mr. Tanner went to in order to justify the reasons African-Americans were not treated equally in the 2004 Ohio election. The committee needs to consider this matter. I am aware of no precedent for the Department acting in this capacity in the past.

Tanner has been asked to testify before Conyers’ committee, though no date for his testimony has been set.

The full text of Conyers’ statement appears below the fold:

Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) released a statement in response to news reports that Department of Justice (DOJ) Voting Section Chief John Tanner’s investigation of the 2004 election in Ohio concluded that long lines and late voting precincts were due to the fact that white voters tend to cast ballots in the morning (i.e., before work) and black voters cast ballots in the afternoon (i.e., after work). The news report appeared online at the popular blog, TPMmuckraker.com.

“I am concerned about the extreme lengths Mr. Tanner went to in order to justify the reasons African-Americans were not treated equally in the 2004 Ohio election. The committee neds to consider this matter. I am aware of no precedent for the Department acting in this capacity in the past.

“The Department of Justice – since the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – has a responsibility to thoroughly investigate allegations of voter suppression and discrimination, like those made in Ohio in 2004. I look forward to hearing more from Mr. Tanner in our committee later this month as he testifies about his work as chief of the voting section. The 2004 election exposed serious deficiencies in this section’s failure to adequately investigate and prosecute voter suppression efforts nationwide and I hope he is prepared to address this issue head on.”

Conyers issued a comprehensive report on voting discrepancies in Ohio in 2004, titled, What Went Wrong in Ohio, and found huge racial disparities in how voting machines were distributed in white and black precincts, among other findings. Tanner, in contrast, in a 2005 letter detailing his findings, says he found no discrepancies in the number of voting machines and attributed the long lines to the tendency of African-American voters to vote after work, as opposed to in the morning hours.

The full story is available at: http://www.tpmmuckraker.com/archives/004438.php.