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.
He said in an interview Friday that he does not enter this role with the assumption that voter fraud is a nationwide epidemic. “I think the answer to that is what we hope to find out,” he told The Washington Post. “What I would say is that I think it’s a danger to the way our democratic system works anytime people are either kept out of the polls or their vote is stolen through fraud.”
For more than a decade, von Spakovsky has been a polarizing figure in voting rights circles, with conservatives championing his efforts to tighten regulations and shore up voter roll inconsistencies. His critics point to a career in which decisions have led to disenfranchisement among poor and minority groups.
“I think there are number of people who have been active in promoting false and exaggerated claims of voter fraud and using that as a pretext to argue for stricter voting and registration rules,” said Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California at Irvine. “And von Spakovsky’s at the top of the list.”