The new race-based voter in­tim­i­da­tion

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

On the first Tues­day in Novem­ber, two uni­formed men ar­rived at a vot­ing place and took up po­si­tions by the en­try doors. In the hours that fol­lowed, they ha­rassed vot­ers and elec­tion of­fi­cials, hurled racial ep­i­thets and phys­i­cally blocked per­sons of other races who sought to cast their votes for pres­i­dent of the United States. One of the men bran­dished a night­stick.

Bar­tle Bull, a civil rights move­ment vet­eran, was there. He says it was “the most bla­tant form of voter in­tim­i­da­tion I have en­coun­tered in my life in po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns in many states, even go­ing back to the work I did in Mis­sis­sippi in the 1960s.” The crimes Mr. Bull wit­nessed that day were not com­mit­ted in 1960s Mis­sis­sippi, how­ever. Those crimes took place in 2008 in Philadel­phia.

It is re­gret­table that on the day when the United States elected its first black pres­i­dent, two thugs in Philadel­phia per­pe­trated acts of race-based voter in­tim­i­da­tion of the type that marred elec­tions in seg­re­ga­tion-era Amer­ica. It also is in­ex­cus­able that Pres­i­dent Obama’s Jus­tice Depart­ment re­fuses to ful­fill its duty and bring those racists to jus­tice. Led by At­tor­ney Gen­eral Eric H. Holder Jr., po­lit­i­cal ap­pointees at the Obama Jus­tice Depart­ment over­ruled ca­reer fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors and dropped voter-in­tim­i­da­tion charges against the men.

The Jus­tice Depart­ment ob­tained only a nar­row, mean­ing­less in­junc­tion against the man who taunted vot­ers with the night­stick. He has been en­joined from bran­dish­ing a weapon within 100 feet of the en­trance to any polling place (an act which was il­le­gal to be­gin with) but only un­til Novem­ber 2012.

Now the Jus­tice Depart­ment is ob­struct­ing the U.S. Civil Rights Com­mis­sion’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion into this case. If two white men had donned po­lice uni­forms or white robes and ter­ror­ized a vot­ing place, we can be cer­tain the Jus­tice Depart­ment would have brought the full force of the law to bear against the per­pe­tra­tors and vindi­cated the right to vote — and prop­erly so. In this case, how­ever, the per­pe­tra­tors were black, and the uni­forms they wore bore the in­signia of the New Black Pan­ther Party, a black su­prem­a­cist or­ga­ni­za­tion.

It should not mat­ter. The Civil Rights Act and the Vot­ing Rights Act af­firmed what the Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence and Con­sti­tu­tion in­tended: that all per­sons are cre­ated equal and are en­ti­tled to be pro­tected equally by our govern­ment and laws. In the decades that have fol­lowed the pas­sage of those two acts, I and mil­lions of oth­ers have been the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of those twin pil­lars of the civil rights move­ment. tem and un­der­mine the fun­da­men­tal rule of law that is the very foun­da­tion of our so­ci­ety: All per­sons are equal be­fore the law, and no per­son stands above it.

The U.S. Civil Rights Com­mis­sion has picked up this case and will be con­tin­u­ing its in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the Obama Jus­tice Depart­ment’s han­dling of it at a hear­ing Fri­day. Thus far, the Jus­tice Depart­ment has stonewalle­d the com­mis­sion’s work — ig­nor­ing its re­quests for records and in­for­ma­tion and re­fus­ing to is­sue and en­force sub­poe­nas on its be­half.

The com­mis­sion will press for­ward with its in­ves­ti­ga­tion. And while the Obama Jus­tice Depart­ment con­tin­ues to demon­strate ap­par­ent dis­re­gard for the rule of law by ob­struct­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, con­sider the new prece­dent its han­dling of this case sets: Racially mo­ti­vated voter in­tim­i­da­tion will be tol­er­ated, even when it is cap­tured on video and avail­able for all to see on YouTube.

If ca­reer pros­e­cu­tors bring

The se­lec­tive en­force­ment of our laws, and the ap­pear­ance of se­lec­tive en­force­ment, erode faith and con­fi­dence in the ad­min­is­tra­tion of our jus­tice sys­tem and un­der­mine the fun­da­men­tal rule of law that is the very foun­da­tion of our so­ci­ety.

But while the Civil Rights Act and Vot­ing Rights Act were passed to end dis­crim­i­na­tion against blacks and other mi­nori­ties, fed­eral law and our Con­sti­tu­tion pro­tect all Amer­i­cans equally, with­out re­gard to race, color, creed or re­li­gion.

The se­lec­tive en­force­ment of our laws, and the ap­pear­ance of se­lec­tive en­force­ment, erode faith and con­fi­dence in the ad­min­is­tra­tion of our jus­tice sys- charges, high-level pres­i­den­tial ap­pointees will in­ter­vene to en­sure they are dropped. Ap­par­ently, only bran­dish­ing a weapon crosses the line.

The vic­tims of the vot­ing rights crimes that were com­mit­ted in Philadel­phia in 2008, and in­deed all Amer­i­cans, de­served to cast their bal­lots free from racial taunts, fear and in­tim­i­da­tion.

They de­served a Jus­tice Depart­ment that en­forces their vot­ing rights in­stead of drop­ping the case. And they de­served bet­ter from the pres­i­dent who fa­mously de­creed, “There is not a black Amer­ica and a white Amer­ica. ... There’s the United States of Amer­ica.”

Mr. Obama, his at­tor­ney gen­eral and his Jus­tice Depart­ment should re­verse course, com­ply with the Civil Rights Com­mis­sion’s re­quests for in­for­ma­tion and aid — not ob­struct — its in­ves­ti­ga­tion. This is the only way to re­store pub­lic faith and con­fi­dence in the im­par­tial en­force­ment of our civil and vot­ing rights laws, which has been se­ri­ously dam­aged by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ac­tions in this case.

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