tv Asst. Atty. General Testifies on John Lewis Voting Rights Act - Part 1 CSPAN October 7, 2021 3:19am-4:17am EDT
senate judiciary committee, my name is kristen clarke and i serve as assistant attorney general for the civil rights division of the u.s. department of justice. thank you for the opportunity to testify on the voting rights act, and they need to revitalize and restore the act. the voting rights act is, as president johnson said, one of the most monumental laws in the entire history of american freedom. a law that has helped to truly transform american democracy. however, the progress we have made is fragile. recently there has been a resurgence in attacks on voting rights including hats to early voting periods, burdensome restrictions to register to vote, racially gerrymandered redistricting plans, polling sites eliminated or consolidated in communities of color, eligible voters purged from the
roles and more. i am here today to sound an alarm for the justice department and strengthening the voting rights act is a matter of great urgency. the supreme court's 2013 shelby county versus holder ruling suspended the preclearance process, eliminating the justice department's single most powerful and effective tool for protecting the right to vote. before shelby, the preclearance process enabled the department to swiftly block the implementation of many discriminatory and unconstitutional voting practices. through section five, the department blocked over 3000 voting changes, helping protect the rights of millions of citizens. in over 60% of the changes, there was evidence of intentional discrimination.
we also know that the preclearance requirement toward many jurisdictions from adopting discriminatory changes in the first place. too many jurisdictions have viewed that shelby ruling as an invitation to adopt rules that disadvantaged minority voters. today, jurisdictions that want to restrict voting rights have what the supreme court memorably described as the advantage of time and inertia. new laws can be challenged only through long protracted resource -intensive case-by-case litigation which we have pursued in states like texas and north carolina. we are on the cusp of another potentially transformational moment, a new redistricting cycle has commenced. 2020 census numbers show the us u.s. has become an increasingly diverse nation, with population growth attributable to increases
in the number of people of color . absent congressional action, this redistricting cycle would be the first in half a century without the full protection of the voting rights act, and restrictions may be poised to dilute the increased minority voting strength that has resulted from these natural demographic changes. without pre-clearance, the justice department will have limited tools to obtain documents and to assess where voting rights are being restricted, thereby hampering enforcement efforts. the john lewis voting rights and advancement act addresses several of the barriers i've referenced which are impeding the department's efforts to protect american citizens' right to vote. first, the active response to the elimination of the pre-clearance coverage formula by updating the relevant criteria so that section 5 coverage is tied to current conduct by jurisdictions.
second, the bill provides greater clarity regarding the appropriate legal standard in section 2 vote-denial cases. third, the legislation gives the department authority to compel the production of documents and materials relevant to investigations of potential voting rights violations. and the bill places new measures fourth, to safeguard the rights of native american and alaskan native voters. in 1965, congress enacted, and in 1975, 1982, and 2006, reauthorized a statute that provided the strong medicine needed to remedy voting discrimination and to enforce our constitution's commitment to ensuring that no citizen's right to vote would be abridged on account of race or color. congress must act now to restore the voting rights act to prevent
us from backsliding into a nation where millions of citizens, particularly citizens of color, find it difficult to register, cast their ballot, and elect candidates of their choice . the justice department welcomes this opportunity to work with congress to revive this bedrock civil rights law. thank you. sen. durbin: thanks, general clarke. let me start the questioning. texas is the latest legislature this year to attack the right to vote based on the light of widespread voter fraud. last month, texas governor abbott signed a law that banned voting opportunities that made voting more accessible particularly during the pandemic , such as drive-through voting and 24 hour. it increased access for partisan poll watchers.
a prohibited prohibited local election officials from proactively distributing applications to request mail-in ballots. the legislation also restricts the state's vote by mail access including new i.d requirements for absentee voters. voting restrictions come after voters of color used all of these same options at historic levels in the last election. now, supporters of the bill, and we've heard it this afternoon in the committee, claim you've got to do it. it is the only way to stop voter fraud. so the texas attorney general spent 22,000 hours looking for evidence of fraud. you think they really would have made their case. what they found to try to justify the law was the following -- only 16 potential cases of fraud out of 17 million registered voters. remember what happened in arizona, five point $7 million spent on the ninja turtles were going through the ballots. the net result was more votes for vita and, fewer votes for trump.
so this notion of voter fraud is a ruse as far as i'm concerned . where there is fraud and waste, we should oppose it. but in this case, there is no basis for it. i would like to ask you to put into perspective for just a moment, we know the discrimination based on voting throughout our history. it is a horrible chapter, more than one chapter in our nation's history when it comes to civil rights after the civil war. the question today is, does it take on a different context in light of the big lie in light of the argument of the previous president that he in fact won the last election, though there is no evidence of that? and the attempt to discredit our electoral voting process? general clarke: thank you for the question. the justice department believes that elections in our country should be open, fair and free from fraud.
we have observed that claims of fraud are extremely rare. the department stands ready to investigate fraud. but what the justice department has observed is that voting discrimination is widespread, it is a current day problem across our country and in texas and in many other parts. the justice department spent several years tackling voter i.d. law. we know that the state of texas spent about $3.5 million defending that law. the justice department is here to make the case for restoring the pre-clearance provision so that we can ensure that elections are free open and fair across our country. sen. durbin: it seems when you read shelby county and earn a brnovich, that the argument being made by the supreme court is, "sure, it was a problem in the old days, but it is no longer a problem that would
require preclearance." yet when you look back not that far in history, a three-judge panel in 2016 examining a 2013 in north carolina voting law that required strict voter i.d. law and limited early voting, the judges wrote "it targeted african-americans with almost surgical precision." this is no coincidence. the court found that before enacting the law the legislature requested data on the use by race of a number of voting practices. upon receipt, the general assembly enacted legislation that restricted voting and registration in five different ways all of which disproportionately affected african-americans. that is eight years ago. in the department's view, voting discrimination is a current day problem. >> the justice department has
found that section to litigation, which it brought in north carolina and texas, has proven to be an inadequate substitute for the important protections long provided by section five. the advantage with section five is that it blocks please discriminatory laws from ever taking root in our electoral process. while the department has section five gain place, the department blocked 3000 discriminatory voting changes, about 60% of them having evidence of intentional discrimination. our hope is that these hearings will lead to a restoration of what has been one of the most important and powerful tools for the department to do its work of safeguarding the right to vote in our country. chairman durbin: thank you, senator grassley. i will quote some -- sen. grassley: i will quote some things you know exist, but i will quote them anyway.
the monmouth poll, 80% of americans said they supported requiring voter i.d.. 62% of the democrats said they supported recurring photo i.d.. the number rose to 87% among independents. 91% among republicans. so, two questions. how do you square prevailing public sentiment with your comments that voter i.d. is a burdensome proof of citizenship required, and in your words, a bag of tricks to suppress black votes? general clarke: thank you, ranking member comer sleep. the department does not believe that voter i.d. laws on their face are unlawful. the department carries out its work by looking at a particular voter i.d. law that may have been adopted in a state. it looks at data with the support of experts to determine who has access to the particular forms of i.d. that are deemed
qualifying under a particular law. we follow the facts and apply the law. voter i.d. laws are not on their face invalid. it really depends on where that photo i.d. law has been instituted. it depends on the form of the i.d. and the kinds of i.d. that may be permissible upon that law , and whether or not there are disparities into has access to the particular category of i.d.s called for by a law. sen. grassley: the overwhelming majority of americans, as according to this poll, support i.d. requirements. do you think most americans support voter suppression, because you said it would suppress black votes? general clarke: the department believes that our elections should free from discrimination, and particular photo i.d. laws
or purge programs or decisions to shut down voting sites have a discriminatory impact on minority voters. what we have found in a work at the department is that these are fact-specific, fact-intensive and context-specific inquiries, senator. these kinds of analyses are conducted by the career employees at the department who will look at a a particular law , a particular photo i.d. law, to determine whether it runs a foul of the voting rights act. sen. grassley: you give me a department answer. and that is appropriate. my question is whether you think that these i.d. requirements, because americans say they are for them, and you say they are a way of suppressing black votes, do you support voter
suppression? general clarke: senator, i think these fools are helpful, but the department conducts its work by looking at the facts and applying the law. sen. grassley: let me go on to another question. the department of justice recently filed a lawsuit against georgia's election reforms. will the department of justice bring enforcement action against new york for only allowing 10 days of in-person voting, or delaware for never permitting early in-person voting? if you say no to that, if you don't plan to bring an action, then how can you tell georgia's senate bill 202, which has more lenient provisions than both new york and delaware? general clarke: senator, i can't comment on pending investigations and if any such investigations exists, i can
tell you that the department is committed to protecting the right to vote in every corner of our country. in new york, for example, we recently resolved a matter involving a county that ran afoul of the national voter registration act and the help america vote act. we are committed to eliminating discrimination wherever it rears its head across our country. sen. grassley: i was very gratified to see that the 20 20 presidential election, despite the pandemic, "featured the largest increase in voters between two presidential elections on the record ,with 17 million more people voting than in 2016." additionally in 2020, non-hispanic blacks had a higher voting turnout in 2020 than in 2016, 62% compared to 60%. it would seem to me that we should be encouraging these high
turnouts without restrictions . what about these statistics justify the imposition of preclearance? general clarke: senator, the statistics that you share certainly reflect a story of progress. but what the department has found is that in particular communities across our country voting discrimination remains a , real and ongoing problem we . we saw this in texas and north carolina, where the department was engaged in long-standing section two litigation against discriminatory measures in those places. and we saw this recently in new york, in the matter that are referenced involving violations of the mvra. we saw this in new jersey where we recently resolved a statewide nvra claim. we know that voting discrimination remains alive and well in many local, state, and other jurisdictions across the country, and section five has
proven to be an important tool to identify and and block voting discrimination. >> thank you. i have a couple of questions. as you know, some of us have been coming in and out. >> mr. chairman, do we have in order so that we will know when we are in the queue? >> i know who you are. we have met for. [laughter] new lynn >> i was just asking if there was in order for the kingdom. sen. leahy: if we go by order of arrival, of course, senator durbin and i and senator grassley are the three here ahead of everybody else. so if we can stop my time over again --
the assistant attorney general clarke, i am glad you are here. i believe it is important that we all be here. as a lead sponsor of the john lewis voting rights act, i am alarmed by the toxic and partisan rhetoric around restoring the voting rights act. as a child, and remember going with my parents when they would go to vote. they told me this is a sacred right, everybody should have it. for decades, since i have been here in the senate, republicans and democrats came together to strengthen this landmark law. so i can't understand the patters -- the partisan rancor that is going around with it now. why is -is- all
parties, of all backgrounds, to believe that this issue should unite us, not divide us? general clarke: thank you for that question. we look at the voting rights act has enjoyed tremendous bipartisan support over the years, during subsequent reauthorization's in 1970, 1982, 1986, and 2006. i am recalling the statement that president bush made when he signed the bill into law in 2006. he observed that he was renewing a bill that helped to bring a community on the margins into the life of american democracy. the justice department knows that partisanship has no place when it comes to enforcement of the voting rights act. this work has been about ensuring that all americans enjoy equal access to the ballot
regardless of race. that all americans enjoy an electoral process that is free from discrimination. the justice department welcomes this opportunity to work with congress now to restore a law that truly has proven to be one of the most effective laws ever passed by congress. sen. leahy: for those of us, and i know you do and i do, everybody should have the right to vote -- republicans, democrats, independents, whoever they are, if we are going to preserve the democracy. some would say, and some would claim, even from this committee, that there is a kind of. as a kind of. his attempt by democrats to usurp state rights and sovereignty. nobody in my state would allow me to vote for it. nothing can be further from the
truth. can you explain in simple terms why the john lewis voting rights and advancement act is a balanced approach, and the safeguards are included in the legislation to ensure that states have ample opportunity to assert their rights and defend their procedures? general clarke: the department has observed a number of important features about this bill. it makes bailout easier so that jurisdictions that have a clean record and a clean bill of health, can exempt themselves from the pre-clearance obligation. we observed that there are states throughout time, such as north carolina and mississippi that joined joined an amicus brief in the shelby case, who indicated they enjoyed the benefits of preclearance, that they appreciated the flexibility and latitude that the process provided. the career employees at the justice department who handle
the pre-clearance process have had good working relationships with local and state election officials. jurisdictions also have the option of bypassing the justice department going to the courts for judicial review instead. but there has been a long history of good collaboration between the justice department and local and state jurisdictions, in administering the preclearance process, a process that has, at the end of the day, helped block voting discrimination and helped rid discrimination from our electoral process. sen. leahy: thank you. i hope we can continue to work together on this to make sure we can find a path to enactment. i am including in the record now the house judiciary committee's record addressing whatever rights and the woody rights act of the senate judiciary committee. without objection, that will be
included. and continue to work with us, because i was thrilled to be standing with -- if i could have that photograph back for just a moment before i yield the floor -- i was thrilled to be standing with leading republicans and democrats when we last signed this bill. and saying, see, it's for america. it's not for either political party. it's for america. and that's what you want. now to answer senator blackburn's question -- actually, senator, i am told senator lee will be recognizing. sen. lee: thank you, mr. chairman. general clarke, let's talk for a moment about what states can do. does california have the authority, and should it have the authority to adopt more
stringent air quality standards than the federal standards in place without receiving preclearance from the united states government? general clarke: senator, this is not an area that i work in. i suppose, this is not an area that i work in. sen. lee: what about areas that are protected by the bill of rights? suppose a state wants to pass laws dealing with covid-19 that might have the impact of restricting religious freedom? like for example restricting the number of people who may congregate in a church or otherwise? should that have to first receive preclearance before they can be enacted by state? general clarke: senator, i am here to talk about the right to vote, which falls to the 14th and 15th amendments, and congress has broad powers to
enforce -- sen. lee: i assume you would also agree that through the 14th amendment, congress also has broad powers to protect other fundamental individual rights , including religious freedom. what about the second amendment? gun laws? should a state be required to receive pre-clearance from federal officials before adopting gun restrictions? general clarke: this is not an area that i work in in the civil rights division. but i do know that the right to vote is unique, it is special, something their supreme court has routinely said that congress has broad enforcement powers in the 14th and 15th amendments, to protect. sen. lee: and those broad powers also extend to other rights that people have. it is important for us to remember that our nation is built on this principle of respect for the sovereign
entities that our states are. and for the ability of each sovereign state, for the people through their elected representatives, to be able to adopt laws that they deem fit. because the sovereigns in our republic are the people. the people have yielded some of their sovereignty to the states in other areas, they have yielded to the federal sovereign. the supreme court of the united states has made this clear in a number of cases over the years, including the supreme court ruling in the shelby county case , in which the supreme court of the united states said, quote, "dual government does not have a -- the federal government does not have a general right to review and veto state enactments before they go into effect in ." in fact, the founding fathers considered and expressly rejected giving the federal
government power to provide what they refer to as a "negative," or a veto over any and all state laws. so we don't advocate for pre-clearance even in areas surrounding our constitutional rights and the constitutional rights belonging to individuals. if the laws passed by a state happen to violate the constitution, we do, of course, have a procedure in place for challenging those. they go to the federal judiciary. the parties can litigate those, after, of course, the constitutional arguments are are made to the legislative body considering them. if they fail there, they can raise them with the judiciary after they become law and so we've got to be very careful that we don't neglect this principle of federalism in our lawmaking processes. we can't do this here. we can't sacrifice this
principle even for rights that we consider important, because the sovereignty of the people is also important. but there again, if the state do something unconstitutional, their enactments can be deemed unconstitutional, and the enforcement of those laws and their implementation can be enjoined. unfortunately, we have had a number of politicians including , some progressives, who aren't satisfied with merely dictating voting procedures to the states. in fact, then-senator kamala harris in 2019 proposed using preclearance to assert state control over regulations involving health safety and welfare situations arising in the context of a russian. when i hear from you your remarks and your testimony, one of the things i care for me is that the average american's concern about the integrity of our elections is somehow based in racism.
they have attended to label any election protection procedure as somehow racist voter suppression. yet these provisions have strong support across the spectrum, including among minority voters. so can you tell me, ms. clarke, what is racist about requiring a person to provide voter id when participating in the precious, sacred, constitutionally-protected process of voting? gen. clarke: thank you, senator. so the inquiry is whether or not a particular law is discriminatory, and we won't know that until we actually look at the facts. we look at the particular law at issue. and we look at where is it being
applied and are there racial disparities in terms of who has access to, for example, the limited forms of id that might be called for by a law, so the inquiry is about discriminatory purpose and intent. sen. leahy: i would note that the senator has gone considerably over his time. i did not want to interrupt, but senator klobuchar, i do that because we have people going back and forth. sen. klobuchar: thank you. in shelby county beholder, the majority -- in shelby county cannot rely on the passing of the voting rights to the supreme court's critique. you agree that is relevant to the current conditions that this
year there have been rolled back of voting rights and 31 of them have been decided into law. i also think these hearings that congress has been conducting since 2019 are important because they provided an opportunity for congress to hear about those conditions across the country. the bill also provides stronger protection for native americans and alaskan american voters which is important. there are also a number of other things. thank you very much. do you agree -- i know you are
familiar with the freedom to vote act and we know john was -- some states have already passed rules for this year. would you agree that in order to protect americans rights about congress must pass both john's and the freedom to vote act? >> thank you. we welcome the opportunity to work with congress and other ways that may strengthen voting rights in our country.
>> i was listening to senator lee's questions and it made me think about my own experience. about the new voting law, when major companies have come out against it. like reducing the number and availability of drop pockets, putting new limits on voting, changing the time of the runoff and not allowing for any weekend voting. making boaters put their birthday on the outside of the envelope instead of the date that they pass the ballot which is meant for confusion, not allowing for confusion during the runoff. especially among voters of
color. the department has pending litigation against the state of georgia. i cannot comment on pending litigation. what i can say is that case-by-case work that the department has been engaged in has not been an adequate substitute for the important work that we have been able to when we have a section five in place, blocking thousands of discriminatory voting from taking root in the country. >> finally, congressman john lewis called voting the most powerful tool we have to create a more perfect union. that his out i see it. with voting laws that involve things like registration, we have elected democratic
governors, republican governors and independent governors. the difference is not what party is elected, the changes that people -- to make some feel part of the franchise. we are making it easier for them to vote. why is it important to strengthen and restore their voting rights act, after several supreme court decisions have rolled back the justice department's ability to enforce laws of protection? >> the right to vote is one of the most important civil rights of our country. the right from which other civil rights are derived. it speaks to principles like the heart of our constitution. we know that the constitution of this body has drawn powers under the amendment to ensure that our elections are free from racial discrimination. we welcome this opportunity to work with you and other members
of the community to achieve that goal. thank you very much. >> senator blackburn? sen. blackburn: you are in charge of policing the civil rights division at the federal level. does it raise civil rights concerns when the government attempts to intimidate citizens who are exercising their first amendment freedom speech? ms. clarke: thank you. we do not want intimidation in our society. sen. blackburn: so it would concern you if there was an exercise against an individual's free-speech? ms. clarke: the first amendment is important and we also do not want society with intimidation. sen. blackburn: did president biden promise to keep the doj a political? ms. clarke: he has and attorney general garden has made clear the partisanship will not affect our work.
sen. blackburn: yes or no, did the teachers union write a letter asking you to use the patriot act to target concerned parents who voiced their opposition to the indoctrination of their children? ms. clarke: this is not a matter that the civil rights division handles. i am aware that memorandum issued by the attorney general which speaks to threats and intimidation that some school officials have experienced in our country. that is not activity protected by the first amendment. sen. blackburn: you are saying that a parent going to the school board and expressing their dismay with crt or the mask mandate, is not protected speech? ms. clarke: i believe the attorney general's memorandum deals with threats and intimidation and harassment. sen. blackburn: did the doj issue the directive to the fbi to target parents and direct
response to this letter from the teachers union? ms. clarke: again, this is not a matter that the division handles. the attorney general said that threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation's core values. sen. blackburn: do you believe it is appropriate to treat parents as domestic terrorists for daring to ask school board members questions about what is being taught to their children? ms. clarke: this is not a matter that the civil rights division handles. this is a memorandum handled by the attorney general. committee is committed to ensure robust discourse. sen. blackburn: do you see any difference in someone being a concerned parent and going to a school board meeting and asking
questions and then that individual being labeled as domestic terrorist and this being carried out by the fbi and doj? is that not a concern to you? ms. clarke: the attorney general's memorandum is focused on threats. sen. blackburn: you see parents asking questions as a threat? does the doj see parents asking questions as a threat? because we have seen reports from teachers, parents, and other members of a private facebook group in virginia that have been accused of compiling a list of names of district parents who oppose critical race theory in order to track back -- track, hack, and dox them to prohibit censorship.
will they be seen as domestic terrorists by the fbi as well? it is free-speech to track parents, but it is not free-speech for parents that want to show up at a school board meeting and make their displeasure known and engage in public discourse because those parents taxpayers are paying the bill for that? let me ask you this. attorney general garland. i have seen reports of his family connection to panorama over data harvesting and holding data on students and having contracts with school boards. we have had quite a bit of discussion about facebook and the way they market and data mine children as young as eight years old. are you aware that? ms. clarke: this is not an issue that the civil rights division -- sen. blackburn: you are working
with -- pipes and you have no knowledge or information about what is being done to parents and how they are being labeled and this directive for the fbi to go and investigate parents who are standing up for what their children are being subjected to in some public school systems? thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you. for the sake of everyone here, the circumstances on the floor are fluid and there is negotiations and conversations back and forth at the leadership level. the democrat leader is asking for a caucus immediately after the end of this first roll call which will be soon. in fairness, i would like to have two less witnesses for we recessed. both of whom have been here before this announcement senator
kunz and senator cruz. i recognize senator kunz. sen. kunz: thank you. thank you for a lifetime of dedication to the constitution, to voting, to finding a way where there seems to be no way to fighting. for our democracy, which is the right to vote. i have a picture on my ipad and i'm smiling in this picture. i am with congressman lewis. i am at foot of the bridge and i am holding up a piece of legislation. it's a piece of legislation that we and our staff had worked on tirelessly over a year.
it was to fix the hole blown in the preclearance section of the voting rights act by the shelby county decision. a carefully balanced sensible approach toward restoring the effectiveness of free clearance the way that it is in this bill. in a minute, i will ask you to walk us through with that balance is that the now john lewis voting rights act would do. i have to say i am sick at heart. that day i was smiling because i was so hopeful and i was in the presence of a living saint. someone who had borne the blows and given his own blood and a dozen places across our country and a dozen instances set upon by a howling mob when he was on a greyhound us as part of the freedom rights. attacked by a klansman when he dared stand up to speak for his rights. challenged by folks who spit on him or beat him or attacked him or jailed him. in the time i got to spend with
him on five different pilgrimages in our country and to south africa, he struck me as one of the most generous, kindhearted, humorous, spirited people. the thing that always challenged me about john was that he believed in america far long before america believed in him. that he grew up in a town that was struggling, sweltering under racial oppression and he never gave up hope. i must confess, there are times now when i listen to my colleagues and the ways in which they are ignoring or mischaracterizing or aligning or misstating the work of the department of justice, the intention of this bill, that i am struggling to remain hopeful. i will just say this. if john could remain hopeful, if congressman lewis could remain hopeful, oddly confident, supremely, even serenely certain that in the end, democracy will win out, so must we. even in a moment when it seems so difficult, so hopeless.
i will challenge my republican colleagues to be true to the decades-old tradition of this voting rights act one by so much sacrifice being reauthorized and approved and improved over decades from 1965 to its most recent reauthorization. by negotiating together and finding a way forward. we have right in front of us a tremendous vehicle. the john lewis voting rights advancement act could be the path forward for that next step towards a more perfect union. if you would, we have heard today at this hearing objections that somehow subjecting certain localities to free clearance, fundamentally unfair. it's unfair to the citizens, it's an undue burden on their state sovereignty.
my recollection is we first crafted it, this formula doesn't punish or shame any particular locality. it ensures voters within a jurisdiction with a demonstrated pattern of screaming nation over 25 years are protected from further erosion of the rights and the formula permits the jurisdiction to emerge from free clearance after 10 years of a clean record. can you remind us in the minute i have given you, how that preclearance framework balances local government prerogatives to manage and control their electoral arrangements and decisions with protections for
them most important constitutional right, the right to vote? ms. clarke: if i may, i wanted to share a recollection of congressman lewis. i remember him being on the senate floor shaking the hands of members of this body in 2006 leading up to the 98-0 vote in favor of reauthorization. i hope and believe that level of bipartisan support for one of this body's most important federal civil rights laws remains possible today. the john r. lewis voting rights advancement act contains a number of provisions. a bailout provision that would allow jurisdictions with a clean fill of health a way to exempt themselves from the preclearance obligation. judicial review is available to jurisdictions that want to bypass the justice department and proceed to court. there is a long history of good and strong collaboration between the justice department and local and state election officials. the justice department has carried out its review of voting laws in 60 days or less. it has done so in a transparent manner publishing guidelines that walk the public and officials through the process. the process that it undertakes when reviewing a voting law. we have heard from states like
mississippi and north carolina told the supreme court in the shelby case that doj is flexible and has latitude in how they handle the section five process. i think this bill, again, makes clear that there is flexibility and latitude and respect for local and state jurisdictions that are administering their local law. the goal is simply about blocking and deterring discriminatory voting changes so they would never take root in a community. sen. coons: thank you for your testimony today and thank you for your determined and capable leadership. >> senator cruz? sen. cruz: thank you. when you testified before this committee, you both promised to be nonpartisan and impartial. i am sorry to say that i think neither of you have lived up to that promise.
within weeks of president biden being sworn in, the department of justice dismissed a civil rights division lawsuit against yale university for explicit racial discrimination. yale has a policy to -- discriminate and it does so brazenly. if the department justice decided that preventing racial discrimination did not fit within the purview of the biden doj. in your defense, you are not yet there. another was merrick garland. that was the initial political operatives doing what they believe was consistent with the preferences of the president. just this week, after you and merrick garland were there, the doj issued a memorandum to the fbi instructing them to mobilize against parents across the country. parents of school kids who have
the temerity to show up at school boards and express their opposition to the teaching of critical race theory. a theory that divides us on racial lines, that tells schoolchildren the lie that america is fundamentally racist, that it is irredeemably racist, that white people are racist. it spreads racial division. many parents are understandably quite dismayed at schools that are teaching this to their children. sometimes as young as five. yet the department justice looked at that issue and decided to label the parents objected to this teaching as domestic terrorists. did you participate in discussions about the memo before was issued? ms. clarke: i can't talk about internal deliberations. sen. cruz: you can't talk about if you participated in discussions about the memo?
ms. clarke: no, but what i can tell you is that the civil rights division will play a role going forward. attorney general has asked the department to undertake a review and the division will participate in that review to determine how federal enforcement tools can be used to prosecute crimes. sen. cruz: do you believe parents objecting to the teaching of critical race theory have civil rights? ms. clarke: i don't follow the question. sen. cruz: you don't understand the question whether parents objecting to critical race theory have civil rights? ms. clarke: the first amendment is a core value in our democracy. sen. cruz: i didn't say free speech, i said civil rights. school boards are democratic. they are petitioning your local government. do they have civil rights? ms. clarke: they have the right to express their view, to challenge the school board.
sen. cruz: beneficial for the attorney general to label them as domestic terrorists? ms. clarke: the memo deals with threats against public servants. threats against public servants are not only illegal, they run counter to our nation's core values. sen. cruz: do you believe parents objecting at school boards are domestic terrorists? ms. clarke: i don't. sen. cruz: do you believe antifa are domestic terrorists? ms. clarke: i don't have a view about antifa. sen. cruz: do you believe the black lives matter protesters who looted and burned shops are domestic terrorists? ms. clarke: we live in a society with people who espouse different views. sen. cruz: it is amazing you're not willing to condemn people who are murdering police officers and firebombing cities because of your politics aligns with them. but at the same time when it comes to parents and school boards, you are perfectly comfortable with calling a mom
at a pta meeting a domestic terrorist. this demonstrates why the democrat proposal to take someone with as long a partisan record as you have and to put you in charge of striking down any voting rights law in the country that you disagree with is nothing but a partisan power grab. let me give you another example. your division has operated in a purely partisan way. the doj dismissed the civil rights lawsuits against the state of new york, pennsylvania, michigan for those governors policies that sent covid positive patients into nursing homes, forced the nursing homes to take those patients. a political decision that resulted in tens of thousands of deaths. one of those governors, andrew cuomo has resigned in disgrace and his staff admitted they lied under-reporting the death that policy caused yet your division dismissed the lawsuits against those governors.
how are we to see that as anything other than a purely partisan decision? ms. clarke: the letters that were issued to officials in the matters that you referenced were put together by career officials inside the department. sen. cruz: career officials can't be partisan? ms. clarke: this department carries out its work free from political -- sen. cruz: are you testifying there are no career officials at the doj who are partisan? ms. clarke: partisanship does not impact way that we carry out -- sen. cruz: yet you dismissed the lawsuits against them a credit governors even when their policies may have caused the deaths of tens of thousands of people. you also dismissed a lawsuit that was brought against a medical center that had a pattern of discriminating against health care providers that are conscience reasons didn't want to implement abortions even though federal law protects their civil rights.
why did you dismissed that civil rights lawsuit in contravention of civil law? ms. clarke: general garland has made clear and i agree the partisanship has no place in the enforcement -- sen. cruz: yet your actions contradict the statements. >> your time is expired. we are going to stand in recess. i want to apologize to the witnesses on both sides, but this caucus has been called at the last minute and it relates to an issue of the debt ceiling. we will return and i ask you to stand at ease until the opportunity presents itself. the committee stands in recess.