Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Cornyn Places Hold on Justice Dept Nominee

Senator Cornyn has placed a hold on the nomination of James Cole. Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, has put a legislative hold on the already troubled nomination of James M. Cole to be deputy attorney general until the attorney general ensures full protection for voting rights of our military (and associated civilian personnel) stationed abroad. The senator is right to raise a ruckus.

In 2009, Senator Cornyn co-authored a law stating that at least 45 days before an election, states must mail out absentee ballots to military serving overseas. It appears that this law is not in line with the priorities of the Holder Justice Department.

In 2008, more than 17,000 military votes were denied. On the Justice Department website the old standard of a 30 day time frame is still listed. The Justice Department website does, however, devote a large section to felons looking to regain voting privileges.

Rebecca Wertz, a Justice Department official, spoke to a conference of the National Association of Secretaries of State in February and is reported to proclaim to the audience that the new law is open to interpretation. One attendee said she deliberately undermined the law to the audience.

Senator Cornyn looked over the minutes of the conference and decided to place a hold on James M. Cole, a nominee to become deputy attorney general and a personal friend of Eric Holder. It is to demand attention into this deliberate decision of the Holder Justice Department to undermine the voting rights of military personnel.

Cornyn wrote, "The statute does not create any discretion for the executive Branch to decide whether or not to enforce its legal requirements." He informed Holder that Wertz's comments "fly in the face of the clear statutory language, undermine the provisions in question and jeopardize the voting rights of our men and women n uniform." He included four steps for Holder to address the 45 day deadline, including a state by state accounting of compliance efforts.

Is it too much to ask that the Justice Department set aside obvious attempts to politicize the department - military votes are generally thought to be conservative votes - and ensure the right to vote in a presidential election be extended to our military personnel serving overseas? Who is more deserving?

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