During testimony last week before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, former Justice Department lawyer J. Christian Adams claimed that he and his colleagues had been specifically instructed not to enforce certain voting laws if they could affect minority votes — an accusation the Justice Department denies.
According to Adams, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Julie Fernandes instructed DOJ attorneys to steer clear of pursuing voting violations that could be in violation of Section 8 of the Voters Rights Act, which requires states to make sure their voter rolls are up to date and do not carry names of people who are no longer eligible to vote in the state. The provision is intended to guard against voter list tampering, ensuring that campaigns cannot vote illegally using the names of the deceased, incarcerated and those who have moved out of state.
Adams’ testimony suggested that the Obama Justice Department sees the provision as a hindrance to civil rights and that the department was not interested in investigating claims of Section 8 voter fraud.
“What do they have to do with helping increase minority access and turnout? We want to increase access to the ballot, not limit it,” Adams said Fernandes told DOJ attorneys while addressing them about the Section 8 provision.
Fernandes’ alleged comments resemble public comments she made nearly three years ago, when she spoke out against Section 8 of the Voting Rights Act while serving as a policy analyst for the Leadership Conference for Civil Rights. Fernandes told a congressional subcommittee that Section 8 of the Voting Rights Act had been used for “broad purges that wipe out so many eligible voters for no gain.”
While Fernandes could not be reached for comment, the Department of Justice responded to questions about their enforcement approach, saying they choose cases only on the facts and nothing more.
“The Department makes enforcement decisions based on the merits, not the race, gender or ethnicity of any party involved,” a Justice Department statement read.