August 21, 2009

JOHN FUND: Eric Holder’s Black Panther Stonewall: Why did the Justice Department dismiss such a clear case of voter intimidation?

President Obama’s Justice Department continues to stonewall inquiries about why it dropped a voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party.

The episode—which Bartle Bull, a former civil rights lawyer and publisher of the left-wing Village Voice, calls “the most blatant form of voter intimidation I’ve ever seen”—began on Election Day 2008. Mr. Bull and others witnessed two Black Panthers in paramilitary garb at a polling place near downtown Philadelphia. (Some of this behavior is on YouTube.)

One of them, they say, brandished a nightstick at the entrance and pointed it at voters and both made racial threats. Mr. Bull says he heard one yell “You are about to be ruled by the black man, cracker!” . . .

President Obama needs to clear the air. As a former law professor who specialized in voting rights, he is aware of how important even-handed application of the law is to election integrity. In 2007, then-Sen. Obama introduced a bill to protect Americans from tactics that intimidate voters. It also increased the criminal penalty for voter intimidation to five years in prison from one year.

“There is no place for politics in this debate,” he testified before Mr. Conyers’s committee in March, 2007. “Both parties at different periods in our history have been guilty in different regions of preventing people from voting for a tactical advantage. We should be beyond that.”

One way to get there is for Mr. Obama to insist his Justice Department reinstate the Black Panther case or provide a full explanation for why it was dropped.

It does seem kind of fishy.

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