“For more than 15 years, clean-cut, square-jawed Tom Heffelfinger was the embodiment of a tough Republican prosecutor,” the L.A. Times reports. “By the time Heffelfinger resigned last year, his office had collected a string of awards and commendations from the Justice Department.” So why was he targeted for firing?
Part of the reason, government documents and other evidence suggest, is that he tried to protect voting rights for Native Americans.
At a time when GOP activists wanted U.S. attorneys to concentrate on pursuing voter fraud cases, Heffelfinger’s office was expressing deep concern about the effect of a state directive that could have the effect of discouraging Indians in Minnesota from casting ballots.
Citing requirements in a new state election law, Republican Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer directed that tribal ID cards could not be used for voter identification by Native Americans living off reservations. Heffelfinger and his staff feared that the ruling could result in discrimination against Indian voters. Many do not have driver’s licenses or forms of identification other than the tribes’ photo IDs.
The Times adds, “About three months after Heffelfinger’s office raised the issue of tribal ID cards and nonreservation Indians in an October 2004 memo, his name appeared on a list of U.S. attorneys singled out for possible firing.”