The Justice Department is living down to its reputation for not caring about protecting voting rights of military personnel. With 20 full-time attorneys supposedly on the task, it has failed to do as much for military voters as a ragtag team of volunteer law students has accomplished. The department’s inaction is suspicious.
For months, critics have charged Justice with being reluctant to enforce the 2009 Military and Overseas Voter Enforcement Act (MOVE Act), probably because the Obama political team suspects that soldiers tend to vote Republican. The MOVE Act requires states to mail ballots at least 45 days before Election Day to military personnel and affiliated civilians stationed abroad, unless the states secure a waiver under limited circumstances and produce foolproof alternative means for ensuring military voting rights. The department insists it is rigorously enforcing this law. Its actions, however, are unconvincing.
Justice official Rebecca Wertz seemed at a February conference to encourage states to seek waivers rather than comply with the MOVE Act. The department has refused demands from Sen. John Cornyn, the Texas Republican who authored the act, to let the public know the status of any efforts to guarantee compliance. Then the department let Wisconsin off the hook by allowing the Badger State to mail ballots just 32 days in advance.
Now, in what is probably the Justice Department’s worst dereliction, it has taken no discernible action against New Mexico and Connecticut for appearing to be guilty of widespread failure to comply with the law, nor against various noncompliant counties in at least five other states.
M. Eric Eversole, executive director of the nonprofit Military Voter Protection (MVP) Project, outlined these findings in a Sept. 27 letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. To compile the data, Mr. Eversole used a team of volunteer law students making phone calls in 14 states in about 700 administrative voting jurisdictions of a nationwide total of 7,838. Why was the Justice Department, with all its resources, not on top of these matters? Furthermore, since the MVP project was able only to contact about one-tenth of the jurisdictions, it’s questionable if the department is keeping tabs on the other 90 percent.
Prompted by Mr. Eversole’s missive, Mr. Cornyn and his Republican colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a Sept. 29 letter to Mr. Holder demanding that the Justice Department litigate against noncompliant jurisdictions. By late Friday afternoon, neither the senators nor Mr. Eversole had received a response from Mr. Holder. “I find it a bit surprising that they haven’t even followed up with me,” Mr. Eversole told The Washington Times. “This is another example of their lack of urgency.”
Justice recently forced Hawaii, which originally was not compliant, to produce an acceptable way to accommodate its military voters. That’s the sort of diligence Mr. Holder’s department should demonstrate more often. So far, the Obama administration’s efforts on behalf of our men and women in uniform have been sorely lacking.