What is the quietest spot in Washington, D.C.? The Rose Garden? The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier? Actually, it’s the Justice Department’s Voting Section.
The Voting Section is static while the rolls of at least 16 states evidently list ineligible voters, including nonresidents, disqualified felons and — yes, dead people. Even worse, this Big Sleep at Justice seems totally deliberate.
As former Voting Section prosecutor J. Christian Adams testified under oath before the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, he attended a November 2009 meeting in which Deputy Assistant Attorney General Julie Fernandes discussed the federal law that requires that local officials purge illegitimate names from their voter rolls. Adams swore that Fernandes told Voting Section prosecutors: “We have no interest in enforcing this provision of the law. It has nothing to do with increasing turnout, and we are just not going to do it.”
So far, the Voting Section is living down to Fernandes’ low expectations. If not willful disregard for federal statutes, only powerful sedatives could explain how federal prosecutors could rest comfortably through these simmering examples of voter-roll adulteration: The federal Election Assistance Commission reports that Arkansas, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon and Tennessee expunged precisely zero dead voters from their rolls between 2006 and 2008. The same applies to numerous counties in Alabama, Rhode Island and Virginia. Either these places are experiencing an explosion in immortality, or they are violating federal law.
Several Iowa and North Carolina counties feature more registered voters than live, voting-age adults. This condition plagues at least a dozen counties each in Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Dakota and Texas. Registered voters equal 104 percent of Baltimore County, Maryland’s voting-adult population; and, according to documents that Adams filed, 113 percent in Lincoln County, West Virginia. Alaska’s and Michigan’s statewide figures are 102 percent.
Duplicate registration plagues metropolitan areas that straddle state lines. In such spots, people may reside in one state and work or study in another. Greater St. Louis, Kansas City, Memphis and Cincinnati occupy this category, as do New York and Florida — to which tax-burdened New Yorkers often escape.
Such unacceptable electoral conditions could help candidates win, thanks to graveyard landslides. But even barring that, America should leave disheveled voter rolls to banana republics.
While the Voting Section naps, J. Christian Adams barely has time to blink. He has warned 16 states of potential lawsuits because they are violating the National Voter Registration Act. Section 7 of this 1993 “Motor Voter” law expands suffrage by requiring states to enroll voters at motor-vehicle bureaus, welfare agencies and other government offices. Simultaneously, Section 8 requires states to update their records so that only eligible voters — not cadavers — can cast ballots.
Come Election Night, if the votes of live citizens are not diluted by those of deceased Americans, it will be no thanks to Justice’s Voting Section. They are enjoying an office-wide slumber party while America’s voter rolls literally are haunted.
Deroy Murdock is a columnist with Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.