This past Presidential Election, uniformed, baton swinging thugs were caught on video intimidating voters at a polling place in Philadelphia while hurling racial threats and insults at both black and white voters (see here, here). After investigating the incident, and before the change in Administrations, the Civil Rights Division of DOJ filed a complaint against the New Black Panther Party and several of its members for violations of Section 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act. That Section prohibits any “attempt to intimidate, threaten, or coerce” any voter and those aiding voters.
Neither the New Black Panther Party nor its members responded to the complaint. As a result, the federal district court ordered the Division to file a motion for a default judgment against the Party and its members. When a defendant doesn’t respond to a lawsuit, this is what happens. By this time, however, the new Administration had taken charge. Instead of filing for a default judgment against the Party and its members, the Division VOLUNTARILY moved to dismiss the charges against the Black Panther Party and two of its members.
In other words, the Division voluntarily dismissed an uncontentested lawsuit against an individual who, by the terms of its own complaint, had “made statements containing racial threats and racial insults at both black and white individuals” and who “made menacing and intimidating gestures, statements, and movements directed at individuals who were present to aid voters.” One member, Jerry Jackson, is an elected member of the Philadelphia Democratic Committee and was a credentialed poll watcher. (See Jackson in an interview with FoxNews here).
The Division sought relief only against one member who carried and waived a baton on election day, and sought only to enjoin him from “displaying a weapon within 100 feet of any open polling loaction” in Philadelphia. Nothing about ”statements containing racial threats and racial insults” or ”menacing and intimidating gestures, statements, and movements directed at individuals who were present to aid voters.”
These actions raise a number of troubling questions. For example, why did the Civil Rights Division voluntarily dismiss a lawsuit that they had effectively already won, against defendants who were physically threatening voters? Is the Division concerned that this dismissal will encourage the New Black Panther Party, or other groups, to intimidate voters? Why did the Division seek such limited relief against a defendant who was actually carrying and brandishing a weapon at a polling station on election day?
cross posted at www.electionjournal.org