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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Von Spakovsky Not Too Keen on Voter Protections

On Monday, Hans von Spakovsky, President Bush’s controversial nominee to the Federal Election Commission, released a case study for the Heritage Foundation that examines the legal arguments surrounding Indiana’s harsh voter-identification law.

We have to admit that publishing a document calling for harsher ballot restrictions when his position on that particular issue is precisely what has held up his confirmation in the Senate for so long is a bit cheeky. But pushing our appreciation of irony aside, we also must point out that the arguments he makes in this article, specifically regarding the current Supreme Court case challenging the legality of the Indiana voter-ID law, raise serious questions about his judgment.

Mr. von Spakovsky argues that the potential for disenfranchisement by the Indiana voter-ID law is vastly overstated and asserts that instances of voter-impersonation are both well documented and pose a serious threat to the sanctity of our elections. Not to impugn his analysis, but there must be more efficient ways of rigging an election than sending individuals from one polling place to another to cast one fraudulent ballot at a time. Is this really the most serious threat facing the legitimacy of our democracy? Call us crazy, but we think that the government should have irrefutable evidence of significant fraud before it starts limiting the ability of citizens to cast their ballot – especially when those limitations have a disproportionate effect on certain communities.

While there may not be much proof that in-person voter fraud is particularly problematic, there is plenty of evidence that the Indiana law severely limits the ability of minority and disabled citizens to exercise their constitutional right to participate in elections. Even Congresswoman Julia Carson, the former representative from Indianapolis, was turned away from the polls in 2006 because the congressional ID card that she presented at the poll did not contain her photo. Apparently Indiana’s law doesn’t just restrict the ability of minorities and the disabled to vote, but members of Congress as well! Now, if Mr. von Spakovsky had an explanation for that, we’d love to hear it.

While the FEC doesn’t directly hear cases that deal with voting rights, the message that Mr. von Spakovsky’s nomination sends is certainly a deliberate one. The Bush administration has repeatedly nominated people for high-level positions who are hostile to voters’ rights – first to the judiciary, then to the Justice Department and now to the Federal Election Commission. The Senate should have the courage to stand up and say, "Enough is enough."

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