Will donors punish GOP outliers on election law?


DUE DILIGENCE: Rep. Charles Dent took “great pains to make certain that nothing would penalize states.”

By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. — More than two-thirds of the Republican co-sponsors of a controversial voter bill have gone silent.

They have good reason to lay low, says one election-law attorney.

U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., author of the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014, said he’s proud to work with the American Civil Liberties Union and left-wing groups to resurrect Attorney General Eric Holder’s power to block state election laws.

Sensenbrenner’s bid to reassert federal authority dismantled by the U.S. Supreme Court has 11 GOP House co-sponsors, along with dozens of Democrat supporters.

Watchdog.org, following its initial report on H.R. 3899, emailed and telephoned the offices of the 11 Republican lawmakers for comment. Only three responded.

Shawn Millan, spokesman for U.S. Rep. Charles Dent, R-Pa., said the congressman took “great pains to make certain that nothing in it would penalize states, like Pennsylvania, that have pursued voter ID laws.”

“Congressman Dent supports requiring IDs for voters,” Millan said.

U.S. Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio, on his website, declared:

“As a lifetime member of the NAACP, I am always proud to partner with Dayton NAACP President Derrick L. Foward and his team to ensure that voting rights are protected.

“Passage of this legislation would enact a new formula that would ensure the voting rights of all citizens receive substantial protection,” Turner stated.

“The bill would also ensure greater transparency in elections so that voters are made aware of changes and allow for faster relief when voting rights are violated.”

The office of U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., issued a curt reply, without elaboration: “The congressman’s co-sponsorship of the legislation speaks for itself.”

The eight silent GOP co-sponsors are U.S. Reps. Spencer Bachus of Alabama, Michael Reichart of New York, Steve Chabot of Ohio, Sean Duffy of Wisconsin, Michael Fitzpatrick of New Jersey, Fred Upton of Michigan, Christopher Gibson of New York and Luke Messer of Indiana.

PENALTY AT POLLS? Christian Adams says donors could exact a toll on GOP co-sponsors.

Christian Adams, a nationally recognized election-law lawyer in Alexandria, Va., said the Sensenbrenner bill spells trouble.

He asserts H.R. 3899 would reinstitute abusive federal policies detailed in his book: “Injustice: Exposing the Racial Agenda of the Obama Justice Department.”

The former lawyer in the DOJ’s Voting Section predicted that Sensenbrenner’s Gang of 12 will pay a price for their position.

“Republicans who are considering supporting giving Eric Holder more power over state election integrity laws need to ask themselves: What would their donors think? What would their supporters think?” Adams mused.

“Mr. Sensenbrenner’s donors weren’t very happy about it, and other co-sponsors may find out their donors aren’t happy either,” Adams told Watchdog.

Adams went on to dispute Rep. Dent’s contention that states’ rights would be protected. “Almost everything in the bill penalizes the states,” he said.

“For starters, it imposes massive new federal mandates on every state and local election officials to post information about precinct level data.

“It also penalizes the states by imposing the threat of federal oversight by the Justice Department over state and local elections. It penalizes the states by allowing the Justice Department to impose federal observers on state election officials.

“Any co-sponsor who doesn’t realize that doesn’t know what is in the bill,” Adams said.

A letter from a coalition of election-watch groups urged Rep. Turner to reconsider. The organizations argued that H.R. 3899 “codifies racial discrimination into the law, protecting only certain categories of citizens.”

Sensenbrenner’s bill has a Senate twin by U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. S. 1945 has nine co-sponsors, all Democrats.

Kenric Ward is a national correspondent for Watchdog.org and chief of its Virginia Bureau. Contact him at kenric@watchdogvirginia.org or at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward