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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Von Spakovsky Strikes Again

Hans von Spakovsky, who made headlines when his controversial bid for a seat on the Federal Election Commission stalled in the Senate, has written a new article for National Review Online in which he claims a new and dangerous threat to our fragile democracy: “non-citizen” voting.

As a lawyer in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights division, von Spakovsky caused anger throughout the civil rights community when he shifted the division’s focus away from protecting the voting rights of minorities (see the Voting Rights Act) and turned it towards so-called “voter fraud.” Mr. von Spakovsky and his fellow Republicans seemed to think that there was a plague of in-person voter fraud threatening the legitimacy of our electoral system. Never mind that there was almost no evidence to support their position.

Mr. von Spakovsky’s solution? Voter identification laws! He was a vocal supporter of controversial voter ID laws throughout the country, particularly Indiana’s incarnation. While the Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s restrictive law, the logic behind th is statu t e remains in dispute. Requiring voters to present picture IDs at polling places means that thousands of poor, minority, elderly and disabled voters (all of whom are less likely to have drivers’ licenses) could be disenfranchised.

As a result of his leadership at the Justice Department and his controversial stance on voter identification laws, Mr. von Spakovsky’s nomination to the FEC was dead in the water. But don’t worry. He’s still fully committed to protecting the sanctity of our elections. Now, he is calling for states to require proof of citizenship when registering voters. Apparently showing your ID when casting your ballot isn’t enough. Mr. von Spakovsky seems to think that the threat of “non-citizen” voting is so great, it must be addressed at the root – voter registration.

All of these so-called efforts to protect the legitimacy of our elections are transparently political. Conservative state legislatures pass voter identification laws because those most likely to be affected (the poor, the elderly and minorities) also happen to vote largely Democratic. Now, in an election year with the highest voter registration numbers in recent memory, conservatives are concerned that the vast majority of these new voters happen to be registering Democratic. Well, not to worry. They’ll nip that right in the bud!

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