Like so many other institutions, whether academia or the media, leftists dominate the field of election law, and the consequences are immediate and profound. Most notably, hardly anyone has noticed that these scores of leftist election experts enjoy a largely unopposed battlefield.
Leftist foundations, litigators and organizations have established permanent structures designed to alter election outcomes through policy advocacy and strategic litigation. Project Vote, DEMOS, the Asian American Legal Defense Fund (AALDF), the Brennan Center for Justice, the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF), the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the Advancement Project, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), the League of Women Voters, the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, and Common Cause are some of the groups that push election law in a direction hostile to conservatives, and to the rule of law. Moreover, money from George Soros also flows downstream through various groups and institutes to the cause.
Literally hundreds of individuals man permanent stations, full time, at these groups. They benefit from tens of millions of dollars in funding. They bring lawsuits under federal and state statutes ranging from the Voting Rights Act, the Motor Voter Law, and the Help America Vote Act. They station teams of election observers in polling places around the nation during every election to fuel their litigation and their media efforts. Almost no one opposes their efforts.
Their efforts pay off over and over again. Whether preventing Michigan or Colorado secretaries of state from purging the voting rolls of dead voters (as in 2008), or grandstanding about purported “voter intimidation” when law-abiding citizens in Houston, Texas deploy retirees to serve as poll watchers (as in 2010), these leftist groups are affecting the outcomes of elections.
Activists posing as nonpartisan academics, like Michael Waldman of the Brennan Center or Tova Wang of DEMOS, disingenuously claim that voter fraud does not exist. Wang is particularly dishonest. She released a report after the 2010 elections that there had been no voter fraud. Wang’s conclusion came only two days after the election, hardly enough time for the careful study necessary for such a sweeping conclusion.
What do conservative groups have to oppose this coordinated leftist strategy of lies and litigation? Virtually nothing. The best effort is an ad hoc group of Republican lawyers. Other embryonic efforts have sprung out of the Tea Party movement, such as True the Vote in Texas or the Election Integrity Project in California.
Of course there are some excellent Republican lawyers, but they often focus on high paying clients, and they do not represent a permanent counterweight to the enormous leftist election-law structures. They assemble just before the election then disperse, like minutemen. No permanent engine of intellectual opposition exists to the leftist election law industry.
In contrast, the leftist election-law practitioners have permanent structures. They are well funded. They have resources, offices and hardwired networks. Eager leftist law students eagerly volunteer their time. The courtroom practitioners enjoy vibrant academic support from leftist law professors. And they have the full weight of the Eric Holder-run Justice Department behind them.
When it comes to constructing the legal environment of election law, full-time leftists are the most engaged and energetic. They know how to beat part-time conservatives, either by mastery of the law, or by dominance of everyday attention to control the narrative.
Conservative public-interest groups occasionally dabble in election matters. But their efforts, primarily defending Voting Rights Act vote dilution lawsuits, have dismal success rates. The most effective conservative election-law effort has been jockeyed by Edward Blum of the American Enterprise Institute. He has bankrolled challenges to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act and ensured that brilliant election litigators like Mike Carvin of Jones Day have what they need. But this is one tiny area that barely scratches the surface of the problem.
All of the prevailing winds in election law blow from the left. Instead of condemning New Black Panther Voter intimidation, Kristen Clarke of the NAACP-LDF defended it by seeking to have the Justice Department lawsuit dismissed. Instead of purging Michigan voter rolls of dead and ineligible felons, the Advancement Project sued Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land to stop any purge ahead of the 2008 presidential election. Instead of Georgia enforcing a voter photo-identification law, the American Civil Liberties Union sued to stop it. Instead of Arizona ensuring that all voter applications are submitted by eligible citizens, groups like the Brennan Center for Justice and the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund successfully undermined the law.
Millions of leftist dollars pour into election-law wars before the lawsuits are even brought. After the lawsuits are brought, the leftist groups intervene and swarm around defendants, as evidenced by the large number of pleadings and amicus briefs submitted in every major election-law dispute.
Leftist election litigators even have their own training academies. One is the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ), where dozens of lawyers at the most militant groups in the United States cut their teeth.
After the Obama administration took control of the division in 2009, Acting Assistant Attorney General Loretta King returned to the Clinton-era policy of refusing to hire anyone but leftists to work in the Voting Section. She implemented policies that placed prior employment with leftist organizations as a uniquely qualifying factor in being hired – even if it was as a volunteer.
After the inauguration, the Voting Section at DOJ saw a hiring blitz of lawyers from the SEIU, the Advancement Project, the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, the NAACP, and international communist groups, as well as those who provided pro bono representation to Guantanamo Bay detainees. Not a single lawyer with a non-ideological or conservative background was hired by DOJ.
As such, the Obama Justice Department blocked requirements in Georgia that voters be able to establish that they were United States citizens; sued Rhode Island and Louisiana, demanding sweeping changes to push welfare recipients and drug addicts onto the voter rolls; and failed to bring any lawsuits under federal law to ensure the voter rolls did not include the names of dead people or ineligible felons.
Whether they are DOJ attorneys turning a blind eye toward the voter-intimidation tactics of anti-Semitic New Black Panthers, or Soros-funded crusaders enabling voter fraud, hundreds of lawyers cloak themselves in neutrality while working hard to obtain particular outcomes in every election cycle.
Adapted from "The Left Owns the Election Law Industry," by J. Christian Adams (August 12, 2011).