Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions was right to prosecute voter fraud while he was the U.S. attorney for southern Alabama, specifically a 1985 Perry County case of absentee ballot harvesting that saw blacks’ votes stolen by black candidates running against other black candidates in a Democratic primary (the election that matters in the heavily-Democratic area).
“Mr. Sessions should be applauded for his efforts to combat voter fraud in Alabama,” said Christian Adams, the former Justice Department lawyer and now president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation.
Mr. Sessions’ actions in a case from three decades ago is looming large as he prepares to face a confirmation hearing next week. In that case the Justice Department brought charges against several people whom the government said engaged in absentee ballot fraud, harvesting ballots from absentee voters and then filling them in themselves. All of those involved — the voters and the accused — were black.
A letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee from Deval Patrick, who defended one of the Perry County Three as a lawyer for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and later served as assistant attorney general for the DOJ Civil Rights Division, is ginning up a smear campaign against Sessions. In it, Patrick claims that the “theory of Mr. Sessions’ case was that it is a federal crime for someone to help someone else to vote” and that the prosecution was an “attempt to criminalize voter assistance.”
Squarely wrong, says Adams, who worked similar cases as a DOJ Voting Section attorney.
In his own letter to the Committee, Adams exposes Patrick’s legal and factual errors and omissions, along with Patrick’s “most incendiary and unfair allegation” that “it constitutes voter intimidation to prosecute voter fraud.”
Far from being some noble endeavor couched in civil rights, these absentee ballot activities steal votes by stripping the will of the voter away and giving it to a corrupt political enterprise. Far from being an exercise in voter intimidation, prosecution of these crimes by federal officials is essential to preserving the right to vote and the integrity of our elections. Mr. Patrick is squarely wrong when he says otherwise.
The right to vote means the right to vote of the voter, not the right of a political machine to force assistance on voters or mark the ballot for them without the voter’s input. And it certainly does not mean the right to alter the ballot of a voter against the will of the voter, which was the central charge brought by Mr. Sessions in the Perry County case. Mr. Sessions should be praised for pressing these prosecutions–not criticized. Indeed, you will see below that after Mr. Sessions’ prosecutorial efforts in the 1980’s, criminality surrounding elections in this part of Alabama only grew worse – and with it the wholesale disenfranchisement of African-American voters by a corrupt political machine.