A prominent voter fraud alarmist who had prepared a report defending Kansas’ proof-of-citizenship law admitted in testimony Friday that he did not investigate the circumstances surrounding the registrations of a handful of non-citizens that were central to his allegations. The witness, Hans von Spakovsky, relied on a spreadsheet provided to him by the state. The spreadsheet showed that in Kansas’ second most populous county, there were only 38 alleged cases of non-citizens registering or attempting to register to vote in the last two decades. That spreadsheet, which also showed that only five of those non-citizens cast votes, had already come under extreme scrutiny earlier in the trial. “I did not personally examine each registration form,” von Spakovsky said, under cross-examination from Dale Ho, the ACLU’s lead attorney in the case.Full Article: Claims Of Leading Voter Fraud Alarmist Picked Apart In Kansas Trial – Talking Points Memo.
Hans von Spakovsky
Kris Kobach used as an expert witness in a voting rights trial Friday a controversial scholar who wanted to block Democrats and mainstream Republicans from serving on a presidential commission. Hans von Spakovsky, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation who has written a book on voter fraud, testified in support of a Kansas law that requires voters to provide proof of citizenship. It was the fourth day of the federal trial in Kansas City, Kan. Von Spakovsky contended that other methods of identifying non-citizens on the voter rolls, such as comparing the voter rolls against the list of driver’s licenses for legal immigrants, are insufficient because they would not be able to identify illegal immigrants. He also said that the threat of prosecution for voter fraud does not do enough to deter non-citizen voting “because we basically have an honor system” in U.S. elections.Full Article: Kobach turns to controversial scholar as trial witness | The Kansas City Star.
A member of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity is calling on a voter fraud hard-liner to resign from the panel after a controversial email he sent about the panel’s makeup became public. Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said it remains “an open question” whether the commission can continue its mission and stopped short of demanding Heritage Foundation expert Hans von Spakovsky step down — but said “certainly” he should start with an apology. At issue is an email sent by von Spakovsky to the Justice Department in February that was made public in a Freedom of Information Act request by the Campaign Legal Center last week. Von Spakovsky was named to the commission in June. In the email, which made its way to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, von Spakovsky says he had received a “very disturbing phone call” that the commission would be “bipartisan and include Democrats.”Full Article: Voting commission member calls for hard-liner's resignation after email - CNNPolitics.
Voting Blogs: Pence-Kobach, the First Day of Hearings, and the Von Spakovsky Affair | More Soft Money Hard Law
The Pence-Kobach Commission just conducted its first public hearing, and its leadership may have hoped to use the occasion to recover a degree of credibility or measure of respectability for its operations. If that was the plan, it did not work out well. The Vice Chair Kobach started the day in retreat from claims, published the Friday before, about illegal voting in the last New Hampshire Senate election. This is the latest example of his utter disregard of the facts and appetite for sweeping, false claims that have been enough to disqualify him as a serious participant in the national discussion of voting rights.It certainly makes a mockery of his leadership of a presidential Commission supposedly conducting an impartial inquiry into the risks of illegal voting. Then the Campaign Legal Center released an informative email that it obtained by FOIA request to the Department of Justice for materials relating allegations of voting fraud in the 2016 election.Full Article: Pence-Kobach, the First Day of Hearings, and the Von Spakovsky Affair -.
National: Who is Hans A. von Spakovsky of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity? | The Washington Post
President Trump on Thursday appointed a divisive conservative voting rights expert to spearhead the White House’s search into allegations of widespread fraud in the 2016 presidential election. The appointment of Hans von Spakovsky has reignited debate over the legitimacy of claims that include unsubstantiated accusations from Trump that “millions of people” voted illegally for Hillary Clinton. Von Spakovsky, a former Justice Department official, sparked legal battles over voting laws during the George W. Bush administration. Von Spakovsky, 58, will join the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, though it remains unclear what role he will take. The White House’s Thursday night announcement, which included several other administration posts, did not provide further details. The announcement did not include any biographical information about von Spakovsky, either.Full Article: Who is Hans A. von Spakovsky of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity - The Washington Post.
“Your vote counts” is a snappy slogan just short enough to fit on a lapel button, but snappy is not the same as “secure.” As the 2016 campaign unfolds, there’s renewed interest in enabling voters to vote over the Internet. The notion that choosing a president could be as easy as using a smartphone to order a pizza is tempting to some, but until cybersecurity wizards prove that a vote cast is a vote counted, Internet balloting is unreliably risky. Internet voting has its passionate advocates. One California pundit argues that since his bills, banking, shopping, even the data on his children’s homework is on the Internet, why shouldn’t his voting be there, too. It’s not safe to vote where he shops? Exactly, says David Jefferson, a computer scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory who was the chairman of the technology committee of the California Internet Task Force.Full Article: EDITORIAL: Internet balloting too risky - Washington Times.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court upheld a move by Texas lawmakers to implement voter identification checks at polls during the midterm elections this November. “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a six-page dissent saying the court’s action ‘risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters,’” reports Adam Liptak for The New York Times. “The law, enacted in 2011, requires voters seeking to cast their ballots at the polls to present photo identification like a Texas driver’s or gun license, a military ID or a passport,” he explains. “Those requirements, Justice Ginsburg wrote, ‘may prevent more than 600,000 registered Texas voters (about 4.5 percent of all registered voters) from voting in person for lack of compliant identification.’” At the heart of the voter-ID debate is the specter of voter fraud. Right-leaning pundits have expended hours upon hours of airtime persuading viewers of its widespread existence and insidious growth. “Voter fraud will occur” during the 2014 midterm elections, claims Hans von Spakovsky, writing for The Wall Street Journal. “Many states run a rickety election process, lacking rules to deter people who are looking to take advantage of the system’s porous security. And too many groups and individuals — including the N.A.A.C.P., the American Civil Liberties Union and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder — are doing everything they can to prevent states from improving the integrity of the election process.” “Democrats want everyone to vote: old, young, white, black, Hispanic, Asian, citizen, non-citizen,” Mona Charen writes at National Review. “Voter-ID laws, passed by 30 states so far, are efforts by legislatures to ensure the integrity of votes. Being asked to show a photo ID can diminish several kinds of fraud, including impersonation, duplicate registrations in different jurisdictions, and voting by ineligible people including felons and non-citizens,” she says.Full Article: Is It Voter Fraud or Voter Suppression in 2014? - NYTimes.com.
When it comes to the fight about voter fraud and voter suppression, how do you prove a negative? One key question in the battle over the legality of voter identification laws is whether such laws are necessary to prevent voter fraud and whether they suppress a lot of votes from eligible voters. Though the answer to the second question remains in considerable dispute, after Tuesday’s federal court decision striking down Wisconsin’s voter ID law, it is time for voter ID supporters to throw in the towel and admit state voter ID laws don’t prevent the kind of fraud they are supposedly targeted for. Federal Judge Lynn Adelman looked at the evidence from Wisconsin and reached a conclusion unsurprising to those of us who study how elections are run. “Virtually no voter impersonation occurs in Wisconsin,” Adelman wrote, “and it is exceedingly unlikely that voter impersonation will become a problem in Wisconsin in the foreseeable future.” Wisconsin is not alone in lacking such evidence. When the United States Supreme Court considered the constitutionality of Indiana’s voter ID law in 2008, the state conceded there was no evidence, ever, of impersonation fraud in the entire state.Full Article: Exorcising the voter fraud ghost | The Great Debate.
North Carolina: After initial hysteria, back-pedaling over North Carolina voter fraud claims | Facing South
Last week, top staff of the N.C. State Board of Elections made a presentation to legislators about the state of voter registration in North Carolina. Out of the board’s 58-page PowerPoint presentation [pdf], only two of the slides (34 and 35) related to the Interstate Crosscheck, a project run by the Kansas secretary of state to root out suspected voter fraud. But the findings of North Carolina’s involvement in Crosscheck quickly ignited a media firestorm, especially in the conservative media: “N.C. State Board Finds More than 35K Incidents of ‘Double Voting’ in 2012” trumpeted National Review. “Oh My: Audit Finds Evidence of Widespread Voter Fraud in North Carolina” blared Townhall.com. Dick Morris, the conservative comentator and former political operative, made even more wild claims, claiming in an editorial for The Hill that North Carolina’s findings offered “concrete proof that massive voter fraud might have taken place in the 2012 election, sufficiently widespread to have tainted more than 1 million votes nationwide.” As Facing South was one of the first to report, however, the North Carolina election board’s data offered little proof of rampant fraud. The 35,750 figure represented people who, when plugged into Crosscheck’s database of voter files from 28 states, had the same first name, last name and date as birth of people who had voted in other states in 2012. But many of those can be explain by clerical errors and the fact that a surprisingly large number of people in different states share the same names and birthday.Full Article: After initial hysteria, back-pedaling over NC voter fraud claims.
The George W. Bush DOJ went after voter fraud hard. It became a mantra in right-wing talking circles that voter fraud was rampant, perhaps swinging elections. The problem with this narrative was that there simply wasn’t much evidence to support it. Undeterred by the lack of evidence, right-wing activists, led by Hans von Spakovsky, a Republican lawyer who served in the Bush Administration, kept pushing the idea in state legislatures. And while many laws restricting voting rights were proposed, a number were passed especially after the Tea Party got a hold of some state legislatures in 2010. Those on the left always suspected that there was something else going on behind these types of laws: requiring photo identification, proof of citizenship, regulation of groups who attempt to register new voters, shortened early voting periods, banning same-day voter registration and increased restrictions on voting by felons. That is, these restrictions seemed designed to suppress the votes of voters more likely to vote Democratic: poor and Black. Well, now two researchers have added some empirical rigor to the debate: what is going on with these spate of voting restrictions?Full Article: Study: Voter Fraud Non-Existent, Partisanship at Heart of Voter Laws.
Ever since the Supreme Court gutted a centerpiece of the Voting Rights Act and threw it back in Congress’s lap, lawmakers in both parties have engaged in happy talk about the prospects of patching the provision used to proactively snuff out voter discrimination against minorities in the state and local governments where it’s most prevalent. But it’s looking less and less likely that a fix will be agreed to because Republicans have little to gain and a lot to lose politically if they cooperate. “Ain’t gonna happen,” Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) said late last week, according to Roll Call. A recent House Judiciary Committee hearing made clear that Republicans have little to no interest in reconstituting the Voting Rights Act. Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-TX) opened by emphasizing that even after the Supreme Court’s decision, “other very important provisions of the Voting Rights Act remain in place.”Full Article: No, Congress Won’t Fix The Voting Rights Act. Here’s Why. | TPMDC.
The story of voting rights in the year 2013 — how the five conservative justices of the United States Supreme Court undercut them last month and what Congress must do to restore them now — is really the story of America itself. There has been much premature self-congratulation mixed in with a great deal of denial and dissonance. There has been a widening gulf between promise and reality. Patriotic words of bipartisanship have flowed, promises of cooperation have oozed, but there are few rational reasons to believe that the nation’s representatives will quickly rally together to do what needs to be done. The premature self-congratulation came from the Court itself. Less than one year after Sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act stymied voter suppression efforts in the 2012 election in Florida, Texas and South Carolina, Chief Justice John Roberts in his opinion in Shelby County v. Holder heralded the “great strides” the nation has made in combating such suppression and the fact that “blatantly discriminatory evasions of federal decrees are rare.” Not so rare. Before the sun set that day, June 25th, officials in Texas and North Carolina had moved forward with restrictive voting measures that had been blocked by the federal law.Full Article: On Voting Rights, Discouraging Signs From the Hill - Andrew Cohen - The Atlantic.
National: Justice Department’s inspector general report: Is the Voting Rights section too politically biased and polarized to enforce the Voting Rights Act? | Slate Magazine
A long-awaited report from the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General issued last week sheds considerable light on the battles within the department’s voting section during the Bush and Obama administrations. The picture is not pretty. It is a tale of dysfunction and party polarization that could unfairly derail the nomination of the next secretary of labor and could even provide ammunition to Justice Antonin Scalia’s incendiary charge, made during the Supreme Court’s hearing on the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act last month, that the civil rights law is a kind of “racial entitlement.” The sordid business raises serious questions about whether the whole model for the federal enforcement of voting rights should be reworked. The record of political bias in the Justice Department’s voting section during President George W. Bush’s administration is well-known. (The department’s voting section is charged with enforcing the Voting Rights Act and other federal voting laws.) We know from earlier reports that election officials, including Monica Goodling, went on a hiring binge to hire conservative attorneys to work in the section and, in the words of Bush appointee Bradley Schlozman, to “gerrymander all those crazy libs right out of the section.”Full Article: Justice Department’s inspector general report: Is the Voting Rights section too politically biased and polarized to enforce the Voting Rights Act? - Slate Magazine.
North Carolina: Supporters, opponents of voter ID law cite data to back up their position | NewsObserver
Lawmakers heard from election experts Wednesday who said there was little evidence of voter fraud in North Carolina, but that voter ID laws in other states had not led to voter suppression as critics have predicted. Of the 21 million votes cast in North Carolina since 2000, the State Board of Elections only turned over one case of voter impersonation for prosecution – the sort of fraud that requiring a photo ID is designed to stop. “Voter fraud is rare and cases of voter impersonation even more uncommon,” Keesha Gaskins, senior counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice, a New York think tank that has opposed voter ID laws, told a House committee considering legislation to require a photo voter ID. “There is no evidence of coordinated or systemic voter fraud anywhere in the country and there is certainly no evidence here in North Carolina,” Gaskins said. “A voter ID law would not improve North Carolina’s elections, but what we do know is that many North Carolina voters lack the kind of identification required by such a law.”Full Article: RALEIGH: Supporters, opponents of voter ID law cite data to back up their position | State Politics | NewsObserver.com.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday will consider whether to strike down a key provision of a federal law designed to protect minority voters. During the one-hour oral argument, the nine justices will hear the claim made by officials from Shelby County, Alabama, that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act is no longer needed. The key issue is whether Congress has the authority under the 15th Amendment, which gave African Americans the right to vote, to require some states, mainly in the South, to show that any proposed election-law change would not discriminate against minority voters. Conservative activists and local officials in some jurisdictions covered by the provision have long complained about it, saying that it is an unacceptable infringement on state sovereignty.Full Article: Supreme Court to weigh ongoing validity of voting rights law | Reuters.
Republican lawmakers say it’s time to do away with the federal commission that has given states election-related advice for the past years. The lawmakers say the Election Assistance Commission has outlived its usefulness. “We do not need a separate federal agency for the small number of useful functions it performs,’’ said Republican Rep. Gregg Harper of Mississippi, who introduced a bill last year to shut down the commission. “They can be accomplished more efficiently within another agency.” The EAC drew new attention after the Nov. 6 election.Full Article: Federal Election Assistance Commission under scrutiny | Hattiesburg American | hattiesburgamerican.com.
When long lines forced some Fairfax voters to wait until 10:30 p.m. to cast their ballots on Election Day, county elections chief Cameron Quinn said the delays arose partly because she had had huge problems recruiting poll workers. That explanation enraged some Fairfax Democrats. They complained that they’d proposed appointments of hundreds of elections officials whom Quinn and others in the Republican-controlled Fairfax elections apparatus had failed to approve in time. It might be a coincidence. Hans von Spakovsky, the GOP-appointed vice chairman of the Fairfax Electoral Board, said the board approved “every single individual” who filled out the necessary paperwork.Full Article: Democrats complain GOP contributed to long waits to vote in Fairfax - The Washington Post.
Teresa Sharp is fifty-three years old and has lived in a modest single-family house on Millsdale Street, in a suburb of Cincinnati, for nearly thirty-three years. A lifelong Democrat, she has voted in every Presidential election since she turned eighteen. So she was agitated when an official summons from the Hamilton County Board of Elections arrived in the mail last month. Hamilton County, which includes Cincinnati, is one of the most populous regions of the most fiercely contested state in the 2012 election. No Republican candidate has ever won the Presidency without carrying Ohio, and recent polls show Barack Obama and Mitt Romney almost even in the state. Every vote may matter, including those cast by the seven members of the Sharp family—Teresa, her husband, four grown children, and an elderly aunt—living in the Millsdale Street house. The letter, which cited arcane legal statutes and was printed on government letterhead, was dated September 4th. “You are hereby notified that your right to vote has been challenged by a qualified elector,” it said. “The Hamilton County Board of Elections has scheduled a hearing regarding your right to vote on Monday, September 10th, 2012, at 8:30 a.m. . . . You have the right to appear and testify, call witnesses and be represented by counsel.” “My first thought was, Oh, no!” Sharp, who is African-American, said. “They ain’t messing with us poor black folks! Who is challenging my right to vote?”Full Article: Who Created the Voter-Fraud Myth? : The New Yorker.
Jane Mayer’s article on the invention of the voter-fraud myth is required reading as we go into the last day’s of the election. Mayer zeroes in on Hans von Spakovsky, a legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation who has been instrumental in turning gossamer, rumor and myth into state-level election law: Von Spakovsky offered me the names of two experts who, he said, would confirm that voter-impersonation fraud posed a significant peril: Robert Pastor, the director of the Center for Democracy and Election Management, at American University, and Larry Sabato, a political-science professor at the University of Virginia. Pastor, von Spakovsky noted, had spoken to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights about being a victim of election fraud: voting in Georgia, he discovered that someone else had already voted under his name. When I reached Pastor, he clarified what had happened to him. “I think they just mistakenly checked my name when my son voted — it was just a mistake.”Full Article: The Fraud of Voter Fraud - Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic.
National: State voting-law cases test Supreme Court’s politics just ahead of Election Day | USAToday
Efforts by some states that could make it tougher to register to vote or vote are heading toward the Supreme Court, providing a fresh test of the justices’ political mettle. The court agreed Monday to hear Arizona’s appeal of a lower-court ruling that blocked the state from requiring proof of citizenship when registering by mail. The case, which could affect other states including Alabama, Georgia, Kansas and Tennessee, likely will be heard in the winter and decided in the spring. More urgent is the court’s imminent decision whether to hear Ohio’s appeal of lower-court rulings that blocked the state from closing early voting centers three days before the election, while allowing military and overseas voters continued access. President Obama’s campaign is opposing the state’s case.Full Article: State voting-law cases test Supreme Court's politics just ahead of Election Day.