Sessions Hearings Open

Attorney General Nominee's Record Demonstrates His Unfitness to lead Justice Department

Posted by Dale Eisman on January 10, 2017


Today In Democracy

The Sessions hearings are on, scheduled to continue all day today and into tomorrow. You can watch on C-SPAN3 and on cable news channels.

But it’s important to do more than watch. Your senators need to hear from you. After reviewing his record, Common Cause is convinced that as attorney general, Sen. Sessions would pose a direct threat to the Constitution and in particular to the voting rights of millions of Americans. His record is replete with instances in which he stood in opposition to equality under the law. We're calling on our 700,000-plus members and activists to speak up on the importance of protecting and strengthening the right to vote.

Make your voice heard. Call your senators and urge them to vote no on the Sessions nomination.

Every contact in every state is important, but we're focusing extra attention on Sens. Thomas Carper of Delaware, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Dean Heller of Nevada, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Bill Nelson of Florida, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, and Jon Tester of Montana. Contacts with these members could prove pivotal in determining whether Sen. Sessions wins confirmation; if you're not in one of these states, please pass a link to this post to family and friends who are and urge them to get involved.

The Attorney General is responsible for ensuring compliance with existing federal law, including the Voting Rights Act, the Help America Vote Act, and the National Voter Registration Act.  Sen. Sessions’ past statements and actions indicate that as Attorney General, he could not be relied on to fully uphold the Voting Rights Act, and perhaps other key civil and voting rights legislation. 

Although he voted in 2006 to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act, Sen. Sessions years later applauded the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder to gut a section of the Voting Rights Act that for decades had stopped discriminatory voting laws from seeing the light of day.

Shortly after Shelby came down, Sen. Sessions said that “if you go to Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, people aren’t being denied the vote because of the color of their skin.”   At best, this statement is naive; at worst, willfully ignorant.  All three states imposed discriminatory voting changes – a photo ID law in Alabama; rescheduled municipal elections in Georgia; and repressive omnibus legislation, including cuts to same day registration and early voting and a new photo ID law, in North Carolina.  A federal appeals court in North Carolina concluded that they intentionally “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.”

As a federal prosecutor in Alabama, in the mid-80s, Sessions prosecuted three civil rights activists organizing voter registration drives in a black majority county on allegations of voter fraud.  Due to a dearth of evidence – only 14 purportedly tampered ballots out of 1.7 million votes cast – the jury acquitted the men in less than four hours.  

If Sessions is appointed head of DOJ, much of the work done to advance voting rights over the past half century could be undone.  The law that helped ensure Americans have full access to the ballot box will be on the chopping block, with Mr. Sessions swinging the axe.

These and other concerns about Sen. Sessions, including his failure to fully answer questions about his record posed by the Senate Judiciary Committee – questions that Sen. Sessions has demanded nominees for federal judges answer completely and in detail – have led a long list of public interest advocates to oppose his nomination.

Office: Common Cause National

Issues: Voting and Elections

Tags: Voting Rights, Registration and Voting Systems

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