Stop the Senate from Confirming Hans von Spakovsky

Dear Readers,

I’ve learned from that the Senate is about to vote on whether to confirm Hans von Spakovsky–one of the worst perpetrators of voter suppression in recent history–to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), an agency charged with enforcing election law. For far too long, the Republican party has suppressed the votes of Black people and other minorities, while the Democratic party has stood idly by and done nothing.

I’ve signed on with to tell my senators that I expect them to reject von Spakovsky and condemn what he represents. Will you join me?

Republicans have been fighting for months to get von Spakovsky confirmed, and, last week, most Democrats in the Senate – including some who’ve spoken out against him — were ready to cave to Republican pressure and let his nomination through without a fight. Thankfully, Senators Barack Obama and Russ Feingold stepped up and took a strong stand against his nomination, blocking a procedural move that would have tied von Spakovsky’s nomination into a package with three other FEC nominees, guaranteeing his appointment. Now, Obama and Feingold need our support to convince their colleagues to take a stand against voter suppression.

It’s sad that they should need any convincing at all, given von Spakovsky’s history.

A long history of undermining our vote

During his first term, Bush installed von Spakovsky in the Justice Department’s (DOJ) voting rights section, which enforces the Voting Rights Act. There, von Spakovsky undermined the DOJ’s historic mission of protecting minority voting rights, and actually transformed the department into a tool to suppress the vote.

When long-term, career employees at the Justice Department unanimously recommended rejecting Tom Delay’s infamous Texas redistricting plan because it discriminated against minority voters, von Spakovsky led the charge to overrule these voting rights experts, and approved the plan. The Supreme Court later ruled that the plan violated the Voting Rights Act. Similarly, von Spakovsky overruled career attorneys to approve a discriminatory Georgia voter ID law—a law that even the Republican governor said would disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Georgians. Again, the law was later struck down by the courts, with the ruling judge likening it to a Jim Crow-era poll tax.

Von Spakovsky’s career in suppression didn’t start at the DOJ. In 1997, he set the stage for Florida’s 2000 voter purge when he wrote an article that called for purging felons from voter rolls. Serving on the board of the “Voter Integrity Project” (VIP) he quickly put his ideas into action — VIP met with the company that designed Florida’s purge to disenfranchise thousands of eligible voters, most of whom were Black. During the recount, von Spakovsky was in Florida as a volunteer for the Bush/Cheney campaign.

Does the Senate support voter suppression?

As shocking as these examples are, they only scratch the surface. Hans von Spakovsky has built a career solidifying Republican control by disenfranchising untold thousands and subverting our most fundamental democratic right.

Republicans wants von Spakovsky on the FEC so much that they threatened to block all FEC nominees unless the Democrats let von Spakovsky through. But last week, instead of fighting, the Democratic leadership gave the Republicans what they wanted — a vote on all four FEC nominees as a package, which would have guaranteed Von Spakovsky’s appointment. By blocking that vote Senators Obama and Feingold went against the leadership and thwarted its compromise with Republicans. That gave us the fighting chance we need to defeat his nomination.

A vote for von Spakovsky is a vote for voter suppression. Anything less than the strongest condemnation of his nomination sends the message that the Senate will turn a blind eye to Republican attacks on our voting rights. Let’s demand that our senators send the opposite message — that they will fight tooth and nail to defend the right to vote, and that their rejection of von Spakovsky’s nomination is only the beginning of a much needed reckoning for the assault on voting rights over the last six and a half years.

Will you join me?