News Column

Justice's Voting Unit Polarized

March 13, 2013

The U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights Division's voting section had a polarizing culture and poor conduct spread across two administrations, a review said.

The Justice Department's inspector general's office forwarded its findings, released Tuesday, to top officials for possible administrative or disciplinary action against three unidentified employees, the Chicago Tribune reported Wednesday.

The report said many others who exhibited similar conduct during the administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have left the department.

Employees of the voting section also showed a "disappointing lack of professionalism," the report said.

The report said the unprofessional attitude lasted "over an extended period of time, during two administrations and across various facets of the Voting Section's operations."

The investigation began after congressional Republicans complained the Obama administration was deliberately not prosecuting some voter intimidation cases, citing a 2008 case involving members of the New Black Panther Party. During the last days of the Bush administration, prosecutors filed civil action against two of the members, its national chairman and the group, but after Obama took office, his Justice Department asked the court to drop the case against three of the four defendants.

The Civil Rights Division is run by Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, reportedly at the head of a list of candidate to become Obama's new labor secretary.

Perez was shown the report about a month ago, the Tribune said. While much of the behavior began during the Bush administration, some spilled over into the Obama White House.

In response, Perez said "significant progress has been made" in the voting section but "additional work remains."

Among the incidents cited in the inspector general's report were:

-- Blog comments posted comparing conservative employees to "Nazis," and saying one worker had "Yellow Fever" because the employee looked "Asian."

-- Employees complaints that the section's policies were biased against blacks and used an inflammatory racial epithet.

-- Disparaging remarks that a conservative employee was from a neighborhood where "everyone wears a white sheet, the darkies say 'yes'm,' and equal rights for all are the real 'land of make believe.'"

-- A black employee telling the inspector general he was assigned to handle a voter intimidation case in Mississippi only for racial reasons.

Source: Copyright United Press International 2013

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