The ACLU has written to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, urging him not to have the Justice Department intervene in a voting-rights dispute in Ohio.
The move comes in response to fast-moving recent events. Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a bid by Ohio Republicans to require Jennifer Brunner, Ohio’s Democratic secretary of state, to provide local election officials with lists of new voters whose registration information did not match that on other government documents.
That prompted House Republican leader John Boehner to write to Mukasey, asking him to require Brunner to hand over the lists. When Mukasey did not respond, Boehner contacted the White House, which said Friday that it had passed his request on to Mukasey, and asked for action.
Voting-rights advocates fear that making Brunner hand over the lists could lead to a slew of GOP challenges, forcing hundreds of thousands of voters to cast provisional ballots.
They also see the White House’s involvement as an inappropriate politicization of DOJ. In its letter to Mukasey, ACLU writes of the White House’s move:
With the election one week away, this kind of intrusion represents partisan politics at its worst. In addition, challenging — or purging — lawfully registered voters in the days before the election invites chaos and undermines the integrity of the democratic process.
Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a good-government group, agreed with that take, telling TPMmuckraker that the White House “is trying to impact the Ohio election.” *
She said her organization would be watching to see whether Mukasey — who was picked to run DOJ after Alberto Gonzales resigned amid accusations that he had overseen inappropriate politicization of the department and misled Congress — would respond.
A group of Ohio Democrats, led by Sen. Sherrod Brown, has also written to Mukasey, urging him not to intervene in the case.
* This sentence has been corrected from an earlier version.