At Election Law Blog, Rick Hasen revisits the New Black Panthers Party scandal that engulfed the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and became the source of largely partisan infighting on the U.S. Commission for Civil Rights. The Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility concluded a report on the controversy back in March that largely confirmed my take on the matter. (I had missed news of this report, covered at TPM but largely escaping notice elsewhere.)
To recap, the original incident was no big deal. The NBPP members’ actions may have been illegal, but there’s little no evidence any actual voters were intimidated, so it’s not clear why this case was ever worth much attention. The OPR report is most enlightening in its discussion of why the Obama Justice Department sought to narrow the injunction after it had obtained a default judgment. As Prof. Hasen notes, there were reasonable bases for the move — but no one at DoJ ever made a public effort to explain them. DoJ officials acted as if there was something to hide, even though there wasn’t. Had Department officials been more forthcoming, it would not have satisfied all their critics, but it would certainly have kept this tempest inside a rather small teapot.
UPDATE: After corresponding with some individuals who are closer to this case, I’ve concluded that I should have written that there was “little” evidence of actual voter intimidation, rather than “no” evidence.