John Tanner Gets the Grilling of His Life

31 10 2007

John Tanner got the grilling of his life by a House Judiciary Subcommittee yesterday on his record as chief of the voting rights section at the Justice Department and his remarks about minority elderly voters.

Under Tanner’s leadership the Justice Department has approved the most stringent voter ID laws in places such as Arizona, Georgia, and Indiana that make it harder not easier for the poor, people of color, and the elderly to vote. Many civil rights advocates consider current voter ID laws a tool of voter suppression because of their onerous provisions.

As Bradblog reported weeks ago, Tanner stated his rationale for not believing elderly voters of color are discriminated against in the implementation of these laws because “they die first.”

Since then, Tanner offered a meager apology that sounded more like as if he regretted how others misinterpreted his statement than an attempt to be genuinely contrite.

I want to apologize for the comments I made at the recent meeting of the National Latino Congreso about the impact of voter identification laws on elderly and minority voters. I understand that my explanation of the data came across in a hurtful way which I deeply regret.

Alabaman Congressman Artur Davis, however, wasn’t buying it. He began his questioning by leaning into Tanner regarding his rationale for his offensive remarks. Tanner began to explain away his statements by referring to certain inequities in the healthcare system and other “sad facts.” But curiously cited very few facts and statistics to support his views.

As he probed John Tanner reasoning, Congressman Davis asked him the most salient question all morning: Was Tanner familiar with the numbers regarding voter turnout among minority voters in Georgia? After a few failed attempts at dodging the question, John Tanner, chief of the DOJ voting section, said no.

Mr. Davis did not stop until he hammered this critical point home.

You’re a policy maker, sir. You’re in charge of enforcing the voting rights laws in this country and if you are not fully informed about you are talking about and pontificating about…. If you are basing your conclusions on stereotypes rather than facts, then it suggests to some of us that someone else can do this job better than you can.

Watch it.

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