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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Von Spakovsky Plays the Victim

Last week, Hans von Spakovsky, President Bush’s controversial nominee to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), withdrew his name from consideration for the post. Today, he wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in which he claimed to be the victim of a systematic smear campaign by Senate Democrats and “liberal beltway advocacy groups.”

It’s true that Mr. von Spakovsky faced staunch opposition by several progressive organizations, as well as many Democratic senators, but in truth he is simply the victim of his own hyper-partisan beliefs.

In fact, Alliance for Justice was one of the many organizations that opposed Mr. von Spakovsky’s nomination to the FEC. In an April 30th blog post, we cited his leadership of the Justice Department’s Voting Rights Section as the reason for our opposition.
This section, which is responsible for enforcing the Voting Rights Act, has historically focused on ensuring that local authorities did not impede minorities from participating in the electoral process. Under Mr. von Spakovsky however, it shifted priorities from protecting voters’ rights to rooting out so-called cases of voter fraud. This transition in focus is one of the problems that led to many of the allegations of politicization at the Justice Department.
In his editorial, Mr. von Spakovsky defends his focus on voter-fraud and particularly his position on voter identification laws, citing the recent Supreme Court decision upholding Indiana’s voter ID law as justification. He claims that he is “still being called…a ‘vote suppressor’ because [he] agree[s] with the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of voter ID laws.” But as we pointed out in that same April 30th post, just because the Supreme Court says that requiring voter identification is legal, does not make it good policy.
Conservatives argue that laws like this are meant to protect against voter fraud. But the truth is that their efforts provide a solution to a problem that doesn’t actually exist. Instead, these voter ID requirements risk disenfranchising thousands of voters, disproportionately affecting racial minorities, the poor, the elderly, and the disabled - all of whom are less likely to have drivers’ licenses. Conveniently though, these groups also tend to vote Democratic – a consequence conservative legislators certainly considered before passing these laws.
Despite his assertions of unjust treatment by partisan operatives, Mr. von Spakovsky is no martyr – except to his own fringe values and ultra-conservative ideology.

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