Justice Department Actions Show Bush Administration’s Lack of Commitment to Civil Rights

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 18, 2005

Contact: Priscilla Ring or Stacey Gates at People For the American Way

Email: [email protected]

Phone Number: 202-467-4999

Political Officials Overrule Civil Rights Staff, Allow Georgia to Institute Egregious Voter ID Provision

The Washington Post revealed on Thursday that senior political officials in the U.S. Justice Department overruled a team of Justice Department lawyers and analysts who recommended rejecting a Georgia voter-identification law because it was likely to discriminate against black voters. The state has since been prevented by federal courts from implementing the law.

Statement by Reverend Timothy McDonald
Pastor, First Iconium Baptist Church (Atlanta, Georgia)
Chair, African American Ministers in Action
People For the American Way Board Member

“Bush administration officials talk plenty about their commitment to equality and civil rights, but their actions speak a lot louder. At least now we understand how the Justice Department could have approved this poll tax in a state with a long history of voter intimidation and suppression – it was purely a political decision.

“Under the Voting Rights Act, it is the duty of the Justice Department to prevent Georgia from making changes that disenfranchise African American and other minority voters. But political officials in this Justice Department ignored the experts 4 to 1 recommendation against the I.D. Bill. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales told Georgia to go ahead with their new blockade on the ballot box.

“This whole episode is another reminder of how important it is to have federal courts that we can rely on to be independent, that we can count on to uphold Americans’ rights. It’s another reminder of why it’s a terrible idea to put right-wing ideologues on the Supreme Court – especially when they have a record, like Sam Alito, of making it harder for victims of discrimination to have their day in court.

“Governor Perdue and members of the Georgia Assembly need to start the new year by repealing the poll tax and passing election reforms that will protect the rights of all voters to cast a ballot that counts. And members of Congress need to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act, which it is sadly clear, is still necessary to protect the most basic democratic right, the right to vote.”