Justice Dept called uncooperative on voting rights
The House Judiciary Committee chairman on Wednesday said the Justice Department is stonewalling efforts to make sure this year's presidential voting operates fairly.
Chairman John Conyers told Attorney General Michael Mukasey there hasn't been enough cooperation with Congress on voting rights issues. Conyers also said the work that has been done hasn't been effective.
"As we sit here today, probably 100 days before the election, we don't know specifically how our government will respond to the problems that made the elections of 2000 and 2004 so problematic and so controversial," Conyers told Mukasey at the start of the panel's oversight hearing - likely the last House appearance for the attorney general.
Conyers, D-Mich., said it's unclear whether voting machines will be fairly allocated and how federal election monitors will be deployed across the country.
Mukasey responded that making sure the Nov. 4 elections run smoothly is one of his top priorities.
He said the Justice Department plans to work with civil rights groups and state and local officials to solve any problems that might arise. Hundreds of election observers and monitors will be dispatched as well, he said.
"We anticipate much higher turnout this year, and we're doing what we can," Mukasey told Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C.
The Justice Department has briefed lawmakers on voting rights issues twice this year and plans to again before the election. It recently held a training session for lawyers and agents who will be working on ballot access and other voting matters throughout the election season.