Further demonstrating that no conservative can be so disgraced that they cannot later be published in the Wall Street Journal, Bush-era vote suppression guru Hans von Spakovsky has an op-ed in today’s WSJ claiming that the Justice Department has “spent the last several months misinterpreting key voting rights laws for nakedly political reasons”:
Exhibit A: Justice’s inexplicable dismissal of a civil lawsuit for voter intimidation against the New Black Panther Party. The Black Panthers weren’t content to endorse Barack Obama. They sent their members to the polls last November to “patrol election sites.” Fox News aired a video of two Black Panthers in military-style uniforms in a Philadelphia precinct. One of them was carrying a nightstick. . . . But instead of following through and getting an injunction to prevent this behavior in future elections, the department, now under Mr. Holder, dismissed the lawsuit against all but one of the defendants (the nightstick holder).
Exhibit B: Justice recently stopped Georgia from implementing a key provision of the Help America Vote Act. Passed in 2002, the act requires states to verify the accuracy of information voters provide on their registration forms by comparing it with state driver’s license and Social Security records — a sensible requirement.
Both of Spakovsky’s exhibits have no basis in reality. Although his tale of Black Panthers patrolling polling sites sure sounds intimidating, the real facts are nothing like von Spakovsky claims.
Two African-American men did show up at a polling place dressed as stereotypical Black Panthers, but the Philadelphia District Attorney says that she took no action because there were “no complaints and no evidence” of any wrongdoing. Similarly, Zack Stalberg, Executive Director of the nonpartisan poll monitoring organization the Committee of Seventy, says that the two strangely-dressed men were “off-putting, not quite intimidating.” Indeed, the sole basis for any allegations of voter intimidation are statements by two poll watchers from an organization called “Democrats for McCain.”
In other words, the Justice Department dismissed their claim against the Black Panthers not for some nefarious purpose, but because there wasn’t any reliable evidence showing that the Black Panthers violated the law. Now that Spakovsky no longer works there, the DOJ actually requires evidence before it brings a case.
Spakovsky’s claim that the DOJ “stopped Georgia from implementing a key provision of the Help America Vote Act” is also false. In truth the DOJ halted an illegal voter suppression scheme that systematically screened out “thousands of citizens who are in fact eligible to vote.”
Under the Georgia scheme, new voter registrations were compared to federal and state records to screen for non-matching names, dates of birth, driver’s license numbers, Social Security numbers and to screen for proof of citizenship. Thousands of eligible voters, however, were screened out because a state employee mistakenly entered the wrong information into a database. Once screened out, a voter had to jump through hoops before they could vote:
[E]lection officials can require these individuals also to appear at the county courthouse or office building, not at the voter’s convenience, but rather on a week day, during normal business hours and, pursuant to state law, with only three days notice.
Moreover, African-Americans were sixty percent more likely to be screened than white voters, and Asian and Latino-Americans were twice as likely to be falsely screened as non-citizens, a textbook violation of the Voting Rights Act.
The bottom line is this: during his disgraceful tenure at DOJ, Spakovsky routinely approved state voting practices that were later struck down by federal courts. He manipulated election law to benefit Republican candidates; he retaliated against career attorneys who stood in the way of his illegal efforts; and he even gave cash awards to career attorneys who towed the party line. Now that he is powerless, he is continuing his anti-voter crusade from the pages of the Wall Street Journal.
Justin Levitt, a voting rights attorney with the Brennan Center, has more on Spakovsky’s distortions here.