Obama’s New DOJ Voting Rights Advocate has Texas and North Carolina In Her Crosshairs

Pam Karlen

The Republicans and the Tea Party thought they had it made when the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. Texas’ version of a vote suppression law was so stringent it caught judges, politicians and the state’s attorney-general in the net of imagined fraudulent voters.

North Carolina’s Pat McCrory sold his version using the same fear and myth strategy that Republicans have used nationwide.  He stayed mum on provisions that increased the amounts that corporate interests could donate to state political campaigns. After all, even fans of Duck Dynasty would see that if the state had a voter fraud problem it isn’t going to be fixed by allowing outside corporate interests to spend more buying up state politicians or by getting rid of pre-registration and voting awareness programs.

Republicans in Texas and North Carolina probably thought they could face down the legal challenges, even those brought by the Department of Justice.  After all, corporate money can buy fancy lawyers and with Federal court nominations being gummed up by Republicans in Congress, things were looking pretty good for the vote suppression crowd.

That was before some recent changes at the Department of Justice.  Last month, President Obama nominated Debo Adegbile to be the new Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. He worked as senior counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. For over a decade, Adegbile worked in several positions for the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Education Fund. He appeared before the Supreme Court, twice, in an effort to save the Voting Rights Act.

Last Friday, the Department of Justice announced that Pam Karlan, another top expert on voting rights, will work under Adegbile as the Deputy Attorney-General for Civil Rights. Karlan has the combination of legal scholarship and experience as effective civil rights attorney. She co-wrote the brief that brought an end to the Defense of Marriage Act.  Pam Karlan was assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education fund and was a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law before she joined the Stanford faculty in 1998. President Obama abandoned plans to nominate her for the Federal Appeals Court in 2012. Oh, did I mention that she wrote the leading text book on Voting Rights, along with several books on constitutional law and civil rights?

Pam Karlan is the person who will be handling the DOJ’s challenges to the Texas and North Carolina suppression laws.

As Think Progress explained it at the time:

[Charlie] Savage also explains that Obama’s decision not to pursue nominees like Karlan was part of a “deliberate strategy” to appoint “relatively moderate jurists who he hoped would not provoke culture wars that distracted attention from his ambitious legislative agenda.

Conservative heads are spinning 360 degrees because Karlan is a smart and well educated woman, a liberal, a Jew, a member of the LGBT community and she has the cojones to describe herself as snarky.   In other words, she is a strong advocate for the franchise and she isn’t someone who is going to back down from a fight, like say, John Boehner.

Adgebile and Karlan’s combined expertise on voting rights, their determination and their understanding of the Supreme Court’s current climate means Republicans will have to either offer up evidence of the rampant voter fraud they claim necessitates their attacks on the vote or shut up.  It’s about time!

Image: ACS Law

Comments are closed.