DOJ Takes Unusual Step Of Opposing Federal Official In Voting Rights Case

U.S Election Assistance Commissioners Rosemary Rodriguez, left, Caroline Hunter, center, and Donetta Davidson, right, meet at the E.A.C. offices May 15, 2008 in Washington. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission is ... U.S Election Assistance Commissioners Rosemary Rodriguez, left, Caroline Hunter, center, and Donetta Davidson, right, meet at the E.A.C. offices May 15, 2008 in Washington. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission is an independent, bipartisan commission created by the Help America Vote Act of 2002. (AP Photo/William B. Plowman) MORE LESS
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In an unusual move Monday, the Department of Justice signaled it would be siding with the voting rights groups and against a federal official over whether proof of citizenship should be required to register to vote in three states.

The groups are suing Brian Newby, the recently appointed executive director of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), over his decision to change the federal voting registration forms in Kansas, Georgia and Alabama to require proof of citizenship. The challengers say adding the requirement to the form violates the National Voter Registration Act and additionally that Newby failed to go through the typical protocols of making the change, which the commission opposed in the past.

The Department of Justice filed a brief Monday arguing that the requirement should be temporarily blocked while a full case is heard on the merits.

“The United States concedes that, because the challenged actions were not made on the basis of the NVRA’s ‘necessity’ criterion, defendants cannot succeed on the merits,” the brief said, referring to the law’s language concerning adding requirements to the form. “Because the government consents to entry of a preliminary injunction, the Court need not weigh all of the other injunction factors.”

According to Politico, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach — who Newby worked for as a local elections official before stepping into the EAC role — is also trying intervene in the case so he can defend the proof-of-citizenship requirement. He filed a brief to do so on Friday.

Read the DOJ request that the requirement be temporarily blocked below:

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  1. this isn’t a comment as much as that I have questions…

    how did this guy get appointed? is there some reason he can’t be dismissed? how does an agency lose control of an employee like this and how is he allowed to issue a unilateral decision?

  2. Avatar for rps rps says:

    I have the same question. Here is a press release from the EAC that speaks to the bill of goods he sold the board of directors that he is now ignoring. How this commission, that was ironically created by the “Help America Vote Act” could appoint a Kris Korbach deputy from the most aggressively anti-voter state in the union is beyond belief. I wish TPM, ProPublica, or some other reputable source would investigate the history of this appointment. Josh - please shed some light on this!

  3. Avatar for paulw paulw says:

    If the guy were even vaguely honorable, he’d resign at this point. In other words, he’ll continue to pull down a government salary until he’s dragged out.

  4. I’m also very curious to learn the answer to that question! The two possibilities are:

    • someone was asleep at the wheel
    • A (partisan) congressional committee played a significant role in the appointment

    It could be a combination of the two.

  5. It is absurd that, for national office elections, there are different “rules” for different states. How can it be possible for a citizen to be able to cast a vote for president, US senator or US rep in one state but someone in the exact same situation be disallowed to vote for these federal offices?

    It’s bad enough that some states allow early and/or absentee voting but others don’t. My own PA has a single day for voting and absentee ballots must be applied for, stating a “valid” reason.

    Universal, consistent voting rules across the country seems like a reasonable demand. Or not?

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