Hans Von Spakovsky 101: How To Suppress The Vote Like A Pro

Today, the Senate Rules and Administration Committee will vote on the nomination of Hans von Spakovsky for a seat on the Federal Election Commission. In June, the Rules Committee held a confirmation hearing on four nominees to the FEC. But much of the hearing focused on Spakovsky, who has become a lighting rod for criticism over his controversial tenure in the Justice Department.

The committee did not vote on von Spakovsky at the time because chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) wanted to give Spakovsky “a chance to respond in writing to a letter, submitted by six former career staffers at the Justice Department, opposing his nomination.”

Spakovsky, a former political appointee in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division whom President Bush temporarily placed on the FEC using a recess appointment, is said to have “used every opportunity he had over four years in the Justice Department to make it difficult for voters — poor, minority and Democratic — to go to the polls.”

Here’s an overview of his record of disenfranchising voters:

Spakovsky stalled ruling on Mississippi redistricting, effecting electoral outcomes: In 2002, under Spakovsky’s leadership, the DoJ stalled making a determination under the Voting Rights Act on a conservative-drawn redistricting plan, approving it by default. The plan influenced the outcome of a key House race.

Spakovsky pushed through Texas re-districting that violated the Voting Rights Act: In 2003, “led the battle within [the] Civil Rights Division to approve the Texas redistricting.” In 2006, the Supreme Court held that parts of the plan violated provisions of Voting Rights Act by diluting minority voting strength.

Spakovsky urged Maryland officials to reject voter registration forms of lawful voters: In 2003, Spakovsky told a Maryland election official to deny voter registration applications if any of the information on the application failed to match what is in the DMV and Social Security databases. The move exceeded federal law and was found to needlessly reject thousands of applications to vote that were lawful.

Spakovsky blocked an investigation into voter discrimination against Native Americans: In 2004, then-Minnesota U.S. Attrorney Thomas Heffelfinger believed a state voter ID ruling would disenfranchise Indian voters, but when the DoJ’s voting rights section sought to open an investigation, Spakovsky directed attorneys not to contact county officials, which “effectively ended any department inquiry.”

Spakovsky approved “modern day poll tax” over objections of career staff: In 2005, a team of Justice Department lawyers and analysts who reviewed a Georgia voter-identification law recommended rejecting it because it was likely to discriminate against black voters. But the law was approved the next day by political appointees, including Spakovsky. When the law was eventually overturned, a federal judge compared it to a Jim Crow-era poll tax.

In June, five House Democrats from Georgia, including civil rights veteran John Lewis of Atlanta, wrote a letter cautioning senators against confirming Spakovsky, saying his appointment “could potentially turn back the clock on 50 years of progress” in voting rights.


As the six former Justice Department officials wrote in June, because of his “dubious stewardship” of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, the Senate Rules Committee should “refuse to reward” him with a seat on the Federal Election Commission.

The Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights has more on Spakovsky here and here. Paul Kiel at TPMMuckraker has more as well.

UPDATE: Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick has more on why Spakovsky shouldn’t be confirmed here.