Clarke made waves in 2007 as an outside critic of the Justice Department’s civil prosecution of a corrupt party leader in Mississippi. A federal judge found that the leader, Ike Brown, violated the Voting Rights Act by suppressing white votes in a rural Mississippi county where whites are the minority. He was found to have pushed election workers to count deficient absentee ballots from blacks but disqualify ballots from whites with the same problems and held rigged caucuses in the homes of friends and supporters.

Then legal director of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund, Clarke opposed the Justice Department’s decision to prosecute him, according to 2010 testimony from Justice Department official Christopher Coates before the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.

Coates described a 2008 meeting with Clarke in which she “spent a considerable amount of time criticizing the division and the voting section for bringing the Brown case,” and identified Clarke as part of a coterie of civil rights litigators who “believe incorrectly but vehemently that enforcement of the protections of the Voting Rights Act should not be extended to white voters but should be extended only to protecting racial, ethnic, and language minorities.”