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Letter to Attorney General Holder: Defend SC Voter ID Law

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and U.S. Congressman Trey Gowdy (South Carolina-4) today sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder renewing their request for documentspertaining to the Justice Department's costly opposition to South Carolina's Voter ID law.

Last Friday, the Washington, D.C. District Court issued a unanimous decision awarding South Carolina certain litigation costs incurred while defending its Voter ID lawagainst a Justice Department challenge. The case cost the State of South Carolina an estimated $3.5 million.

"Not only do we strongly support the Court's decision to award costs, we request follow up on our previous letter regarding the reasons why this costly litigation occurred in the first place," wrote Graham and Gowdy. "If some, or all, of the costs associated with these actions could have been avoided by following the recommendation of career Voting Section experts, then we would like to know the reason why they were overruled."

Full text of the letter is below and attached:

January 09, 2013

The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr.

Attorney General

U.S. Department of Justice

Washington, D.C. 20530

Dear Attorney General Holder:

Last Friday, the D.C. District Court issued a unanimous decision awarding South Carolina certain litigation costs incurred while successfully defending its Voter ID law (Act R54) against the Department of Justice's challenge. In doing so, the Court reaffirmed South Carolina was the prevailing party and obtained preclearance of Act R54, marking a decisive end to the matter. Not only do we strongly support the Court's decision to award costs, we request follow up on our previous letter regarding the reasons why this costly litigation occurred in the first place.

On September 24, 2012, we sent you a letter regarding the Department of Justice's objection under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act to Act R54. Our letter was prompted by a report that Justice Department political appointees ignored and overruled career Voting Section experts' recommendations that Act R54 be approved. In our letter, we requested"all DOJ documents regarding, discussing or otherwise relevant to theDepartment's preclearance decision on the South Carolina law, including the memos recommending preclearance and any documents discussing the decision to disregard that recommendation."

On September 28, 2012, Acting Assistant Attorney General Judith C. Appelbaum responded, declining to disclose any documents regarding internal deliberations, citing "longstanding policy and practice on the confidentiality of ongoing law enforcement matters" and "longstanding practice of not commenting . . . on pending litigation outside that setting." While we appreciate your departments' adherence to confidentiality, now that this is no longer an ongoing matter we respectfully resubmit our request.

To highlight the reason for our continued interest, here are some of the actions the Justice Department and defendant-intervenors used to drive up the costs of the case, totaling nearly $3.5 million:

· Requiring South Carolina to produce more than 165,000 pages of documents;

· Delaying proceedings by 120 days;

· Litigating every element of the case, from the scheduling of depositions to the scope of document production, and even the font size in one of South Carolina's briefs;

· Requiring South Carolina to transcribe the audio recording of Act R54's legislative history;

· Deposing far more individuals than South Carolina (28-19), even deposing three separate witnesses for more than six hours each; and

· Collectively had three times the attorneys working on the case (36-11).

If some, or all, of the costs associated with these actions could have been avoided by following the recommendation of career Voting Section experts, then we would like to know the reason why they were overruled.

Accordingly, we again request all documents and communications pertaining to the Department's decision to oppose Act R54 and pursue costly litigation, including any memos recommending preclearance and any documents discussing the decision to disregard that recommendation. We are confident that our request does not run contrary to your policies and practices.

We look forward to your timely response.

Sincerely,

Senator Lindsey O. Graham

Congressman Trey Gowdy


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