Ryan J. Reilly | TPM — Attorney General Eric Holder is sending poll watchers into a Mississippi county where white voters were previously found to have been intimidated by a Democratic official who is African-American.
The Justice Department announced Monday they were sending poll watchers to monitor runoff elections in Mississippi’s Noxubee County, as well as in Bolivar, Tunica and Wilkinson counties to ensure their compliance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. DOJ also monitored the first primary election in Noxubee County earlier this month.
The 2005 Noxubee case was the first ever so-called “reverse” discrimination voter intimidation case in the history of the Voting Rights Act. Ike Brown, the chairman of Noxubee County’s Democratic Executive Committee in Mississippi, was found to have been trying to limit the participation of white voters in local elections.
The case came up more recently when conservatives were criticizing the Obama administration’s handling of the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation case. Conservatives alleged that the Justice Department isn’t interested in protecting white voters or pursuing cases against African-American defendants and accused liberals in the Civil Rights Division of complaining about DOJ taking up the Noxubee case.
Civil Rights Department vets contended that the Noxubee case had merit, but that George W. Bush’s political appointees pursued that case but rejected the recommendations of career staffers to monitor other elections and open investigations.
DOJ indicated in press release that Attorney General Eric Holder had certified Noxubee County as a jurisdiction in need of poll monitoring:
Under the Voting Rights Act, the Justice Department is authorized to ask the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to send federal observers to jurisdictions that are certified by the attorney general or by a federal court order. Federal observers will be assigned to monitor polling place activities in Bolivar, Noxubee and Wilkinson Counties based on the attorney general’s certification.
A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment specifically on why the department was sending in monitors.