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A broken promise to myself

I promised myself that I would not read anything about politics while I was in the hospital.

Yeah, and a hash enthusiast is going to eschew wacky tobaccy during Hempfest.

Pray tell, what story could be so compelling that I would break my solemn vow of political abstinence? It’s another article in the L.A. Times about the Attorney General scandal… but with a little twist.

It’s been well documented that U.S. Attorneys were fired, in some cases for allegedly failing to follow-up on complaints of voter fraud with sufficient zeal. In liberal circles, “prosecuting voter fraud” is GOP speak for voter suppression… but I won’t argue that point now.

What’s compelling to me is that Tom Heffelfinger, a U.S. Attorney from Minesota, was apparently targeted for firing because he was (gasp) working to fight against voter suppression. Specifically, he tried to protect the voting rights of Native Americans.

From the LA Times (5/31/07):

At a time when GOP activists wanted U.S. attorneys to concentrate on pursuing voter fraud cases, Heffelfinger’s office was expressing deep concern about the effect of a state directive that could have the effect of discouraging Indians in Minnesota from casting ballots.

Citing requirements in a new state election law, Republican Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer directed that tribal ID cards could not be used for voter identification by Native Americans living off reservations. Heffelfinger and his staff feared that the ruling could result in discrimination against Indian voters. Many do not have driver’s licenses or forms of identification other than the tribes’ photo IDs.

So why does this matter? So what if there’s a state law in Minnesota regarding I.D. requirements at the polls. Don’t states have the right to set their own voting procedures under our current morass of election laws? And what business does a U.S. attorney have meddling with matters pertaining to state or local laws?

It matters because it involves a group of people in this country who’ve arguably endured greater injustice than any other minority (or former majority)… treatment which in some cases could be considered genocide. It matters because federal law trumps state law; and because U.S. attorneys are supposed to be allowed to investigate violations federal law, or in this case: The Voting Rights Act.

Here’s an excerpt of a description of the act, courtesy of Wikipedia.org:

Section 2 contains a general prohibition on voting discrimination, enforced through federal district court litigation. Congress amended this section in 1982, prohibiting any voting practice or procedure that has a discriminatory result. The 1982 amendment provided that proof of intentional discrimination is not required. The provision focused instead on whether the electoral processes is equally accessible to minority voters.

I think any reasonable person can see that the Minnesota law might conflict with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

But how do we know Mr. Heffelfinger was targeted for firing over this matter? Again, from the LA Times:

A hint at why Heffelfinger’s name was on termination lists that Justice Department officials and Bush political strategists put together emerged when Monica M. Goodling, the department’s former White House liaison, testified last week before the House Judiciary Committee about the firings.

Goodling said she had heard Heffelfinger criticized for “spending an excessive amount of time” on Native American issues….

About three months after Heffelfinger’s office raised the issue of tribal ID cards and nonreservation Indians in an October 2004 memo, his name appeared on a list of U.S. attorneys singled out for possible firing.

Heffelfinger was never fired. He has maintained that he resigned for personal reasons.

Remember the good old days when the worst Washington scandal involved a blow job? Remember when Bush ran on the promise of “restoring dignity and integrity to the White House?” Do you remember when the Gipper asked if you were better off today than you were four years ago? Do you think there’s more dignity and integrity in the White House than there was seven years ago?

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  1. There are no words…

    The good news is that votes talk, if we make them. If enough people begin to show outrage at the way Native peoles are treated, just maybe the powers that be will begin to get the message that this isn’t what the voters want.

    But we have to make ourselves heard.

    Now, take care of yourself. You can stress about the world when you get out of there!

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