Usual Suspects Shadowbox DOJ's "Partisan" Redistricters

Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

Back in February, Hans von Spakovsky trumpeted news of a supposed plan by the Justice Department to use their power under the Voting Rights Act to review redistricting plans and reject those they deem discriminatory in order to benefit the Democratic Party. The former Bush Justice Department official warned that if Republican-controlled legislatures drew up redistricting plans that "Democrats don't like," "the Left's effort to exploit the Voting Rights Act for crass political purposes may reach a degree of success once thought unimaginable" as the Voting Section would strike those plans down for purely partisan reasons.

According to von Spakovsky, those Republican-led legislatures could only save their plans by choosing to bypass DOJ and taking their redistricting plans directly to federal court. Former Bush DOJ attorney J. Christian Adams quickly picked up von Spakovsky's call, warning of the "Eric Holder buzzsaw" and urging Republican-dominated states to take his words to heart.

But a funny thing has happened over the past few months. Republican-controlled legislatures in states like Louisiana and Virginia have submitted redistricting plans to DOJ. But the fears of Adams and von Spakovsky notwithstanding, those plans were precleared by the Voting Section.

If you're wondering whether this factual record has led Adams to reconsider his belief in the supposed partisanship of the Justice Department, the answer is no. Indeed, wedded to his conviction that DOJ simply must be filled with politicized ideologues, Adams doubled down, insisting that the only reason DOJ approved those plans was that the states submitted their plans to the U.S. District Court in Washington at the same time they submitted them to DOJ.

By this line of reasoning, the Voting Section's actions don't prove them to be nonpartisan - in fact, the actions even more strongly prove their political commitments. DOJ could have stopped Republican-backed redistricting, if it weren't for those meddling states, but once the plans were submitted to court, DOJ had no choice but to hide their true goals and approve the plans. The cunning of the Voting Section's lawyers is apparently unparalleled.

Of course, one could logically propose another reason for why DOJ's Voting Section didn't reject the Virginia or Louisiana plan: they engaged in legal, not political, analysis, and did not find the plans to be illegal. But by engaging in this way, Adams has made it very easy to again trumpet DOJ's partisanship if they ever do find a submitted plan to be discriminatory.

Note that Adams doesn't seem at all worried with whether or not those redistricting plans are actually discriminatory, but he does seem extremely worried about whether the Republican plans will be approved. It's almost as if his concerns are entirely partisan! And indeed, Adams is a longtime GOP supporter who was hired during the period when DOJ was illegally hiring people on the basis of partisanship. Likewise, von Spakovsky was a Bush recess nominee who was criticized by career DOJ lawyers for improperly "inject[ing] partisan political factors into decision-making."

But of course, none of this matters, because as Adams and von Spakovsky will be the first to tell you, it's the current DOJ attorneys who are the real partisans.

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