A high-level official at the Department of Justice tasked with investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election has announced that she will leave the DOJ in May, leaving a key position in the department’s National Security Division unfilled as President Donald Trump’s political appointees await confirmation in the Senate. Mary McCord, the acting assistant attorney general of the division, did not provide a reason when she told her staff that she would be leaving in May, according to NPR. She said “the time is now right for me to pursue new career opportunities.” McCord’s departure has raised questions about the future of the Trump-Russia probe, which will be in the hands of Trump’s deputy attorney general nominee, Rod Rosenstein, if and when he is confirmed. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from Trump campaign-related investigations last month amid revelations that he failed to disclose two meetings he had with Russia’s ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, in 2016.
Texas is suffering the first consequence of the Trump administration’s indifference to voting rights, which is a polite way of characterizing the ongoing Republican campaign to disenfranchise young and minority voters who tend to support Democrats. In one of his first significant moves since taking office, Attorney General Jeff Sessions threw cold water on long-standing efforts by the Justice Department to clean up a blatantly discriminatory Texas law clearly designed to suppress African American and other Democratic-leaning votes. The move was in keeping with Mr. Sessions’s long-standing hostility to civil and voting rights, and with a widespread view within the GOP that nothing short of blatant hate speech should be considered as racism. However, by pulling back from the lawsuit seeking changes in the Texas statute, the administration threw in the towel on four years of efforts by civil rights lawyers in the Justice Department, which had so far been successful in the federal courts.
For several days in 2014 at the federal courthouse here, lawyers argued over whether the Texas Legislature had passed its voter identification law motivated, at least in part, by a desire to deter minorities from voting. Lawyers for the Justice Department said it had, as did lawyers for minority voters and civil rights groups. Lawyers for Texas denied the allegation. More than two years later, in the very same courtroom, the same judge listened to what were largely the same arguments made by many of the same lawyers on Tuesday. But there was one significant exception: The Justice Department stayed out of the fight. On Monday, the Trump administration’s Justice Department withdrew its claim that Texas had enacted the law with a discriminatory intent, reversing a position that had been part of the agency’s yearslong legal battle.
The Trump administration is abandoning the government’s six-year-old claim that Texas’ voter ID law was intended to discriminate against Hispanics and other minorities, signaling a new course in one of the signature voting rights cases brought by former President Barack Obama. The about-face came on the eve of Tuesday’s scheduled hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos in Corpus Christi. It also came a week after the U.S. Justice Department and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton had asked for a delay in the case because the state legislature is considering changes to the law, which the federal courts already have found to have a discriminatory impact. In court filings Monday, the Justice Department again cited new efforts in the Texas Legislature to “rectify any alleged infirmities” with the 2011 voter identification law, including a “reasonable impediment or indigency exception.” A U.S. Justice Department spokesman said the government would remain a party to a broader discrimination lawsuit brought by a number of legal and civil rights groups.
The Justice Department is suing the city of Eastpointe, alleging that it violates the Voting Rights Act by denying black residents an equal opportunity to elect city council members of their choice. The lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday in Detroit, says no black candidate has ever served on the Eastpointe City Council and that white voters have consistently opposed and defeated black voters’ preferred black candidates. It seeks a court order that would force Eastpointe to change how its city council is elected. It currently consists of the mayor and four council members who serve staggered four-year terms. Of the 32,000 people living in Eastpointe in 2010, nearly 10,000 were black, according to the U.S. Census. Current estimates place the city’s black population at closer to 40%.
New York: Justice Department Seeks to Join Suit Over 117,000 Purged Brooklyn Voters | The New York Times
The Justice Department announced on Thursday that it had filed a motion to join a lawsuit against the New York City Board of Elections, alleging that the board’s Brooklyn office violated federal voter registration law by erasing more than 117,000 Brooklyn voters from the rolls before the primary election simply because they had not voted in previous elections. The filing accused the board of failing to take several steps that are normally required before a voter’s name is removed, and also raised concerns about how the board oversaw the Brooklyn office’s handling of the voter rolls. The petition by the Justice Department to intervene in a lawsuit filed in November by Common Cause New York, a good-government organization, lends significant muscle to an effort to hold the agency responsible for a chaotic Primary Day in April, when many voters in Brooklyn were surprised and infuriated to learn that their voter registrations had been canceled.
The U.S. Department of Justice sued the city of Eastpointe, Michigan, this week for discriminatory election methods that deny black residents the chance to elect black city council members. The city of about 35,000 is almost 40 percent black but no black candidate has ever won a contested election for city council, the local school board or even any legislative district that includes the city. That’s because the lack of electoral districts “dilutes the voting strength of black citizens,” violating the Voting Rights Act, the DOJ said in the complaint it filed Tuesday. But come January 20, the Trump DOJ will likely approach election cases completely differently, experts tell Newsweek. The same day the suit was filed against Eastpointe, senators questioned Donald Trump’s pick for attorney general, Sen. Jeff Sessions, about his views of the Voting Rights Act, which became law in 1965 and bars racial discrimination in voting. While answering a little-noted question about Texas voter ID laws, Sessions revealed one major way he differs from the attorneys general appointed by President Obama.
National: There Won’t Be Any Election Monitors in the Most Vulnerable States This Election: What Could Go Wrong? | Yahoo News
In a contentious election year with voter suppression on the rise, the list of possible catastrophes is pretty long. The Department of Justice has just dealt a major blow to voting rights in the United States with the news that it won’t be dispatching election monitors to some of the most vulnerable states in November. In a contentious election year where voter suppression is likely to be a recurring theme across the country, this is extremely bad news — because instead of relying on federal observers, we’re going to be forced to count on voters themselves enforcing their rights. If election monitors sound like something the UN dispatches to developing democracies, it’s not just nations like Iraq that need monitoring to ensure that everyone has a fair chance at the vote. Systemic inequality and a repeated pattern of voter suppression in the United States demonstrates that we can’t get it together when it comes to protecting the “one person, one vote” principle that’s supposed to be a cornerstone of American life.
National: There Won’t Be Any Election Monitors in the Most Vulnerable States This Election: What Could Go Wrong?
In a contentious election year with voter suppression on the rise, the list of possible catastrophes is pretty long. The Department of Justice has just dealt a major blow to voting rights in the United States with the news that it won’t be dispatching election monitors to some of the most vulnerable states in November. In a contentious election year where voter suppression is likely to be a recurring theme across the country, this is extremely bad news — because instead of relying on federal observers, we’re going to be forced to count on voters themselves enforcing their rights. If election monitors sound like something the UN dispatches to developing democracies, it’s not just nations like Iraq that need monitoring to ensure that everyone has a fair chance at the vote. Systemic inequality and a repeated pattern of voter suppression in the United States demonstrates that we can’t get it together when it comes to protecting the “one person, one vote” principle that’s supposed to be a cornerstone of American life. We can blame 2013’s Shelby County v Holder for this particular DOJ decision. The agency believes that the Supreme Court’s move, which invalidated a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, limits the amount of oversight it can conduct during elections. Historically, the agency could send federal election observers to any states that it felt merited closer monitoring as a result of concerns about restrictions on voting rights. Now, it can only dispatch them in the event of a federal court ruling, and just five states have such rulings outstanding: California, Alabama, Louisiana, Alaska, and New York.
Federal election observers can only be sent to five states in this year’s U.S. presidential election, among the smallest deployments since the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 to end racial discrimination at the ballot box. The plan, confirmed in a U.S. Department of Justice fact sheet seen by Reuters, reflects changes brought about by the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision to strike down parts of the Act, a signature legislative achievement of the 1960s civil rights movement. Voting rights advocates told Reuters they were concerned that the scaling-back of observers would make it harder to detect and counter efforts to intimidate or hinder voters, especially in southern states with a history of racial discrimination at the ballot box.