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Partisan tussle interrupts House probe of midterm voter suppression

The House Oversight Committee's majority Democrats have overstepped their bounds by asking officials in Georgia, Texas and Kansas for information about election procedures that prompted allegations of voter suppression last fall, Republicans say.

But the Democrats say they're not backing down on the signature effort by Congress to review abuse of voting rights and other political malfeasance in the 2018 midterm because the Constitution and the national political will are on their side.

"We have serious concerns that your letters appear to be an attempt to insert the committee into particular state election proceedings, for which we do not see a legitimate legislative purpose," the committee's ranking minority party member, Jim Jordan of Ohio, said in a letter signed by three other Republicans. "By seeking voluminous records relating to election administration of sovereign states, your investigation offends state-federal comity."

The Republicans also sent officials in the three states letters that, while not explicitly encouraging defiance, noted that the "partisan" inquiries raised "serious federalism concerns" and exceeded Congress' investigative authority.

Maryland's Jamie Raskin, the Democratic chairman of the civil rights and civil liberties subcommittee, wrote back to the House GOP overnight to say the committee "has the power and obligation to enforce the voting rights of the people" under five different parts of the Constitution.

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Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings, also a Maryland Democrat, vowed to plow ahead, saying: "With a Democratic president, there was no allegation too small to investigate, but now that Donald Trump is in the White House, there is apparently no scandal too big to ignore."

Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton of Texas told the committee last week he was rebuffing the request for information about the state's aggressive but mistake-filled effort to purge suspected noncitizens from its voter rosters. But the committee says it is getting cooperation from the others. It is seeking explanations about election procedures across Georgia from GOP Gov. Brian Kemp and wants the county clerk of Ford County, Kansas, to explain why she moved the single polling location in Dodge City to a site far from public transit.

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