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WisPolitics: AG promoted voter integrity action at GOP convo

A week before he filed suit against the Government Accountability Board, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen promised Wisconsin delegates at the Republican National Convention they'd be hearing much more from the Department of Justice on targeting those who "illegally and illegitimately registered to vote."

Dems seized on the comments to again raise questions about whether Van Hollen and DOJ have been telling the truth about their contacts with state Republicans about the suit, which is now pending in Dane County court.

The suit seeks to require the GAB to run checks on new voter registrations starting in January 2006 instead of the Aug. 6 date selected by the board. Initially after filing the suit on Sept. 10, Van Hollen said he had no contact with GOP officials before it was filed and had no reason to believe anyone on his staff had either. But various contacts between DOJ staff and the state party officials have come to light since then. That includes GOP attorneys meeting with DOJ staff on several occasions to complain about the GAB’s decision.

State GOP Chair Reince Priebus also expressed his frustration with the GAB's decision several times during the GOP convention in St. Paul. Minn., including a delegate breakfast Van Hollen attended.

Republicans have steadfastly defended the contacts, saying it was appropriate to complain about what they believed to be a violation of the law to the state Department of Justice.

In the speech to delegates at the RNC on Sept. 4, Van Hollen promised DOJ would make sure "that we maintain the liberty and the freedom and the right to have one person, one vote."

"We are going to do our best as the lawyers for the state of Wisconsin, as the defenders and protectors of the law of the state of Wisconsin, of the people who are there to defend your right to have your vote matter," Van Hollen said. "We are out there front and center every day, and you’ll be hearing much more from the Department of Justice in the coming months about doing what we can to make sure that those people who have illegally and illegitimately registered to vote don’t have the opportunity on Election Day to show up and take away your vote by casting one that is not legal.” Dem Party Chairman Joe Wineke again suggested that Van Hollen has not been upfront about his contacts with GOP officials before the suit was filed. “It is unconscionable that the chief law enforcement officer of the state would conduct backroom deals at the Republican National Convention and then use his state office to carry out the bidding of his GOP bosses," Wineke said. “If JB Van Hollen is claiming that this lawsuit isn’t political, then why did he discuss it with the RPW chair at a partisan political convention and send signals to fellow Republicans that he was mobilizing the Department of Justice to take action?"

DOJ spokesman Kevin St. John said nothing in the speech indicates the AG had a conversation with anyone prior to filing the suit.

“It’s a very good and compelling speech that reiterates what he’s been talking about for two years,” St. John said.

St. John referred to a letter Van Hollen sent to the GAB on Aug. 27 and released to the media that states his intention to push the board into meeting HAVA compliance. At the time, a DOJ spokesman told reporters that Van Hollen was weighing all his options, including a lawsuit. “The Attorney General has given many public statements about the right to vote and to enforce the law,” St. John said. “Illegal voting is wrong and the Attorney General’s office should work within the powers of the office to enforce the law and protect the right to vote.”

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