Described as the crown jewel of civil rights law, the Voting Rights Act has been the target of right-wing misinformation for decades, and a parallel legal assault against its constitutionality will be argued before the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder on February 27. The VRA, enacted to stem voter suppression on the basis of race in the South, contains a provision within it - Section 5 - which identifies the worst historical offenders and requires that election changes in those jurisdictions pass federal review. The current legal challenges to the VRA focus on Section 5, and are the continuation of the same discredited claims lodged against this anti-discrimination law since its inception.
Opponents of effective voting rights enforcement have taken to right-wing media outlets to allege that the Department of Justice engaged in "collusive," "illegal," and "crooked" acts for its role in the determination of whether a California county and the state of New Hampshire qualify to opt-out of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). But these allegations of "trickery," most recently pushed by National Review Online contributor Hans von Spakovsky, ignore that DOJ is complying with the text of the VRA as interpreted by the courts.
Two former Bush administration DOJ officials have accused the department of acting improperly in the successful removal of Merced County, California, from the voter protection requirements of Section 5 and the ongoing consideration of such an opt-out for New Hampshire. Writing on the right-wing blog PJ Media, J. Christian Adams argued that in the Merced case DOJ had "ignore[d] the law" and "conned" a federal court as part of an "elaborate legal ruse" to preserve the VRA in Shelby County v. Holder, the case in which the U.S. Supreme Court will consider a claim that Section 5 is unconstitutional. Continuing this attack, von Spakovsky accused the DOJ in the National Review Online of similar "deception" and "manipulation" of the VRA in its considerations of the New Hampshire case, again in order to "manipulate the Supreme Court in the Shelby case." A conservative advocacy group immediately adopted their argument and filed a motion to intervene in the New Hampshire case, as was predicted by election law expert and law professor Rick Hasen:
I expect this argument to get a lot of play.
The great irony here, for those who don't follow this issue closely, is that you have people who oppose section 5 of the VRA complaining that DOJ is making it too easy for those jurisdictions subject to its preclearance provision to escape from the Act's coverage.
Under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, Southern jurisdictions who illegally denied citizens the right to vote during the Jim Crow era - and subsequent jurisdictions that engaged in similar conduct - are forbidden from changing covered election practices without federal approval. There is a legal opt-out to Section 5, by which jurisdictions can "bailout" of the "preclearance" requirements by proving they are no longer breaking the law. To encourage successful bailouts, Congress increasingly "liberalized" this process. Similarly, the Supreme Court in its last VRA case -NAMUDNO v. Holder - "rewrote" the bailout requirements to encourage even more use of the process.
Nevertheless, right-wing activists have successfully placed the Shelby case before the Supreme Court, which could release all covered jurisdictions if Section 5 is declared unconstitutional. Adams and von Spakovsky, who quote anonymous sources and internal DOJ documents to support their arguments, argue that DOJ has "designed" a "legal strategy" to avoid this outcome by aggressively following NAMUDNO.
Beyond the unremarkable fact that the DOJ - the defendant in Shelby - would prefer not to both lose the case and part of the most effective civil rights law in history, Adams and von Spakovsky misrepresent the bailout cases to claim neither Merced nor New Hampshire qualify. Adams complains that the extensive DOJ investigation of Merced's bailout request revealed that the county should have submitted certain past election changes for preclearance and because the county "settled" a Section 5 case, it was ineligible for bailout. But Merced's counsel responded to Adams' accusations, pointing out that "case law under Section 5...holds that the preclearance obligation can be retroactively satisfied":
Mr. Adams is simply incorrect about the Lopez litigation. There was no "settlement"; the County won that lawsuit outright, having summary judgment granted in its favor. See Lopez v. Merced County, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3941 (E.D. Cal. Jan. 16, 2008). Thus, the County was not disqualified from bailout by virtue of the provision relating to consent decrees entered within the last 10 years. 42 U.S.C. § 1973b(a)(1)(B).
[R]egarding the submission of a number of historical voting changes for preclearance in connection with the bailout, there are a number of points to be made:
Section 5 itself provides that oversights in preclearance compliance may be forgiven in a bailout action if they were "were trivial, were promptly corrected, and were not repeated." 42 U.S.C. § 1973b(a)(3). In other words, Mr. Adams's implication that Section 5 has a "no tolerance" standard--and that the Attorney General is therefore ignoring the command of Congress--is refuted by the text of Section 5 itself.
"[P]ost hoc" preclearances are typical in connection with bailout, seriously undermining the notion that such an approach is part of a vast conspiracy to save Section 5.
Adams subsequently admitted "retroactive" preclearance was possible.
Von Spakovsky repeated Adams' claim that states seeking bailouts must not have "failed to submit for preclearance...voting changes they have made" over the past ten years, without acknowledging the retroactive preclearance that may occur for New Hampshire. Von Spakovsky used this misleading point as proof that New Hampshire is actually less qualified than Shelby County for a bailout, because New Hampshire allegedly has more unsubmitted preclearance requests than Shelby County did. But the footnote from the Shelby case on appeal that von Spakovsky partially quoted for the uncontroversial rule that unprecleared voting changes - absent retroactive approval - preclude bailout, explicitly notes that Shelby County's primary problem was DOJ's objection:
Although the Court did not permit discovery into the question of Shelby County's bailout-eligibility, it is clear -- based on undisputed facts in the record -- that Shelby County is not eligible for bailout. Under Section 4(a)(1)(E), a jurisdiction is only eligible for bailout if, during the ten years preceding its bailout request, "the Attorney General has not interposed any objection...with respect to any submission by or on behalf of the plaintiff or any governmental unit within its territory." 42 U.S.C. § 1973b(a)(1)(E). The Attorney General concedes that, in 2008, he interposed an objection [.]
Fox News regular Hans von Spakovsky used a recent U.S Court of Appeals decision striking down Michigan's affirmative action ban as an opportunity to denigrate the "modern 'civil rights' movement" and misrepresent the Sixth Circuit decision as "abusive activism." Contrary to von Spakovsky's claims in the National Review Online, the appellate decision that found the process behind the ban unconstitutional is based on U.S. Supreme Court precedent.
Repeatedly discredited von Spakovsky is infamous for continuously stressing in the right-wing media the prevalence of voter fraud, despite a dearth of evidence. On November 16, he took on equal protection jurisprudence in the National Review Online and criticized the "continued legal decay" of the Sixth Circuit appellate court and its "liberal activists." His scorn was in response to the recent decision of this federal court of appeals which - for the second time - declared that the 2006 Michigan ballot initiative that passed a constitutional amendment banning affirmative action was an unconstitutional restructuring of the state political process. As reported by SCOTUSblog's Lyle Denniston:
By imposing a total ban on any consideration of a race-based education policy, the main opinion said, the majority of voters who opposed affirmative action created a situation in which they not only had won on a policy point, "but rigged the game to reproduce [their] success indefinitely." Minorities are not guaranteed that they will win when they enter into political policy debates, the opinion stressed, but they must not be put at a special disadvantage in seeking policies that they favor and that will benefit them in particular.
The Circuit Court majority opinion, written by Circuit Judge R. Guy Cole, Jr., relied explicitly upon two Supreme Court rulings, both based on the same "political process" reasoning used by Judge Cole. The first was Hunter v. Erickson, a 1969 decision striking down a move by voters in Akron, Ohio, to change the city charter to make it much harder for city officials to adopt any housing policy to benefit racial minorities. The second was Washington v. Seattle School District No. 1, a 1982 decision striking down a voter-approved statewide law that bar the use of busing to achieve racially integrated public schools.
Other conservative media reporting has at least acknowledged that the ACLU and NAACP based their successful challenge to Michigan's ban - known as "Proposal 2" - on Supreme Court precedent. Forbes, although it wrote in opposition of the holding, recognized such precedent but theorized it "would probably be treated differently by the Supreme Court today" because there are likely four justices currently opposed to all affirmative action. Unfortunately, Forbes also misrepresented the opinion as holding "minority groups are entitled not just to equal protection under the laws, but special measures designed to correct past discrimination."
In fact, the winning argument and opinion explicitly did not turn on the constitutionality or "entitlement" of affirmative action, but rather on the restructuring of a state political process to the specific detriment of a racial minority. As reported by The New York Times:
[The decision] was not based on racial discrimination, but rather on a violation of the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection. The ban, the court said, unfairly placed a special burden on supporters of race-conscious admissions policies.
People trying to change any other aspect of university admissions policies, the court said, had several avenues open: they could lobby the admissions committee, petition university leaders, try to influence the college's governing board or take the issue to a statewide initiative. Those supporting affirmative action, on the other hand, had no alternative but to undertake the "long, expensive and arduous process" of amending the state Constitution.
"The existence of such a comparative structural burden undermines the equal protection clause's guarantee that all citizens ought to have equal access to the tools of political change," said Judge R. Guy Cole Jr., writing for the majority.
Von Spakovsky, however, did not bother to analyze this reasoning or acknowledge Supreme Court precedent in his condemnation of the Sixth Circuit's "duplicitous legal reasoning." Instead, he summarily relied on the dissent's assertion that the holding was an "extreme extension" of civil rights law and concluded:
The Sixth Circuit's decision shows just how far the modern "civil rights" movement and their supporters in the judiciary have gone in adopting the arguments and actions of the discriminators and segregationists of prior generations. Their support for racial discrimination makes them indistinguishable.
A Wall Street Journal editorial asserted the recent federal court decision allowing South Carolina's voter ID law to go into effect in 2013 proved that claims of racial discrimination in voter ID laws are "specious." But the Journal - and other conservative media echoing this claim - fail to note that the court was required to hear the case because of uncontroverted evidence that the voter ID law was initially racially discriminatory. In fact, the South Carolina law was only approved because state election officials have sworn to implement it without racial discrimination.
In their new book, Who's Counting? How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk, Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund and Heritage Foundation senior legal fellow Hans von Spakovsky attempt to gin up fears about stolen elections and widespread voter fraud by making use of cherry-picked story-telling, falsehoods, and baseless allegations.
On the eve of the 47th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer relied on notorious voter fraud huckster Hans von Spakovsky and other dubious sources to continue to distort the debate over voter ID laws. Specifically, Von Spakovsky argued that voter ID laws do not affect minority turnout and suggested that, in fact, the opposite is true. From the article:
Von Spakofsky [sic], a senior legal fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, says voting in both Georgia and Indiana increased dramatically in the states' presidential primaries and general presidential elections after photo ID laws went into place.
"In Indiana, which the U.S. Supreme Court said has the strictest voter ID law in the country, turnout in the Democratic presidential primary in 2008 quadrupled from the 2004 election when the photo ID law was not in effect," von Spakofsky last year told the Senate Judiciary Committee. "According to Census Bureau surveys, 59.2 percent of the black voting-age population voted in the 2008 election compared to only 53.8 percent in 2004, an increase of over 5 percentage points."
In reality, as Colorlines.com has reported, such a conclusion cannot be drawn:
Von Spakovsky noted that "Georgia had the largest turnout of minority voters in its history," and then drew the conclusion, "As shown by these data ... voter ID requirements can be easily met by almost all voters and do not have a discriminatory or disparate impact on racial minorities." The message sent: Georgia 2008 voter turnout was good; therefore voter ID laws are good.
These are specious conclusions to draw at best because it relies on a non-existent causation or correlation between the implementation of the state's voter ID law and voter turnout without controlling for other factors such as the growth in voting age population and the growth in the number of people registered to vote during the same period.
I spoke with Charles S. Bullock III, the Richard B. Russell Professor of Political Science at the University of Georgia who said that the state's voter ID law "is not a cause" for the increase in minority voter turnout and "that you can't build a case for a causal link" between the implementation of the voter ID law and the increase in minority voter turnout. In fact, voter turnout would have increased in Georgia in the 2008 presidential election with or without the voter ID law for a number of other factors, says Lubbock, including a "gradual increase" in the voting-age population of African Americans, and also the excitement around the possible election of the nation's first black president. But this does not mean that everyone was able to "easily" get an ID card. [...]
The Increase in Georgia's minority voter turnout was due to large increases in voter registration and the excitement around the Obama campaign, despite the voter ID law, but not because of it.
During a Fox segment today about an investigation into thousands of Florida residents who have allegedly registered to vote, even though they're not U.S. citizens, anchor Bill Hemmer referred to voter ID laws that, in this case, would not address the problem. Discussing the story with guest Hans Von Spakovsky, a Pajamas Media blogger and former DOJ Civil Rights Division official who has pushed for adopting these laws, Hemmer asked:
HEMMER: But, here are what the critics are saying: The minority and the college students, those are the people you are after. You're trying to affect the outcome of an election, whether it's on the county level, or the state level, or ultimately what we saw in 2000, on the national level. How do you respond to that charge?
Fox even aired this voter ID law fact during the segment:
However, as the Miami Herald reported, the problem here has to do with the fact that legal residents, non-citizens who have photo IDs -- including driver's licenses -- appear to have registered to vote:
Nearly 2,700 potential non-U.S. citizens are registered to vote in Florida and some could have been unlawfully casting ballots for years, according to a Miami Herald-CBS4 analysis of elections data.
The bulk of the potential non-citizen voters are in Florida's largest county, Miami-Dade, where the elections supervisor is combing through a list of nearly 2,000 names and contacting them.
An analysis of a partial list of 350 names showed that about 104 have cast ballots going as far back as 1996.
Even if voters are on the list, it doesn't mean they're not eligible to cast a ballot.
The Herald added:
Consider the case of Miami's Maria Ginorio, a 64-year-old from Cuba, who said she became a U.S. citizen in August 2009. She said she was angered by a letter she received asking her to go to the elections office to document her status. Ginorio, who said she typically votes by absentee ballot, is ill and homebound.
"I'm not going to do anything about this,'' Ginorio said. "I can't. I guess I won't vote anymore. I say this with pain in my heart, because voting is my right as a citizen.''
Citizens like Ginorio were flagged as potential ineligible voters after the state's Division of Elections compared its database with a database maintained by Florida's Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, which records whether a new driver is a U.S. citizen when he or she gets a license.
As a result, some citizens could appear to be non citizens now because the DHSMV computer system doesn't automatically update when someone becomes a citizen, said Chris Cate, a spokesman with the Florida Division of Elections.
In a National Review article, Hans von Spakovsky and Travis LaCouter attacked the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division for pursuing a case against an Arkansas center for people with mental disabilities. But the case was actually brought by the Bush administration. This is the latest failed attempt by a cadre of far right-wing critics to show that the Department of Justice under President Obama is up to no good.
In his zeal to paint the Obama administration and its Justice Department as extreme, von Spakovsky has previously misrepresented facts, baselessly charged a judge with racism, ignored evidence that totally undermined his claims, and gone on witch hunts against people who worked on behalf of the poor.
But von Spakovsky may have now managed to sink to a new level of incompetence. In his latest attack, von Spakovsky and his co-author LaCouter criticized the Civil Rights Division for pursuing and largely losing a lawsuit against the Conway Human Development Center, a state-owned facility housing individuals with developmental disabilities. The Justice Department alleged that Conway was violating the civil rights of its residents.
Von Spakovsky and LaCouter claimed that the case shows that "the ideologues in the Civil Rights Division of the Holder Justice Department are proving themselves to be ... blindly partisan" and "ideological zealot[s]."
Only one fact is necessary to debunk von Spakovsky's and LaCouter's claim that the case shows that the "Holder Justice Department" is "blindly partisan": The case was actually investigated and filed by President Bush's Justice Department. According to a brief filed by the Justice Department, the Civil Rights Division began investigating Conway in 2002. In April 2004, the head of the Civil Rights Division signed a letter finding that Conway was subjecting its residents "to a pattern or practice of egregious or flagrant conditions in violation of the Constitution or federal law." The letter proposed trying to find an amicable resolution to the case, but when that proved impossible, the Bush administration filed the lawsuit in question.
The complaint commencing the lawsuit was personally signed by Bush-appointed Attorney General Michael Mukasey. Von Spakovsky and LaCouter hid this fact by saying the case was filed in "early 2009." In fact, the case was filed on January 16, 2009, four days before Obama's inauguration and more than two weeks before current Attorney General Eric Holder was confirmed by the Senate.
The Heritage Foundation's Hans von Spakovsky has been on the media circuit this week in a desperate effort to convince the American people that expensive and unnecessary voter ID laws are necessary to prevent widespread voter fraud from corrupting our democracy. After appearing on CNN Saturday morning, von Spakovsky was hosted on C-SPAN Tuesday morning to debate the matter with Jon Greenbaum of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law. His misrepresentations about the prevalence of voter fraud in America began almost immediately.
When pressed about the claim that there is very little evidence of voter fraud in America, von Spakovsky cited as the perfect example of why Mississippi and other states need to pass voter ID laws the case of U.S. v. Brown, a lawsuit prosecuted by the Justice Department against Ike Brown, the Democratic leader in Noxubee County, MS. But it's hard to see how the voter ID laws could have prevented Brown's crimes.
VON SPAKOVSKY: Well, let's talk about Mississippi where they're voting today in a referendum about voter ID. Anyone who has any doubts about this can pull up a case called U.S. v. Brown, it's a lawsuit that was won under the Voting Rights Act in 2007 by the Justice Department, and the defendant in that case was convicted of all kinds of violations of the Voting Rights Act, discrimination, also he was engaging in voter fraud. And there was testimony in that case, cited in the court decision, by a former deputy sheriff, an African American, about how he witnessed the defendant in that case outside a polling place, telling a young black woman that she should go into the polling place and vote, that she could use any name, no one would question her about it. And how could she do that? Because Mississippi doesn't have a voter ID law.
One woman trying to vote under another name (and there's no evidence in the judgment against Brown that she either attempted this or was successful at it) is the least of their problems in Noxubee County. The complaint against Brown and the Noxubee County Democratic Executive Committee accused the parties of, among other things, recruiting unqualified African American candidates from outside the district to run against white candidates, excluding white people from participation in Democratic Executive Committee activities/decisions, manipulating voter rolls, prohibiting white people from voting, and rejecting valid absentee ballots.
The Mississippi law being supported by von Spakovsky would require voters at the polls to present a government issued photo ID before being permitted to vote. The former DOJ attorney suggests that a voter ID requirement would prevent Brown's crimes. But how? Brown was running the polling operations in the voting district - he seemed to have no trouble picking and choosing which laws to follow, so why would von Spakovsky expect him to honor the voter ID restrictions? In fact, it stretches the boundaries of reason to believe that any laws on the books would have prevented Brown from committing the crimes of which he was found guilty.
Based on the attention paid to the over-hyped threat of voter fraud in the 2012 election cycle, observers of Fox News, the right-wing blogosphere, and Republican state legislatures might believe that double-voting, fraudulent absentee ballots and undocumented aliens casting votes on Election Day is such a frequent phenomenon that the very foundation of our democracy is being pulled out from underneath us. As many states look to pass controversial voter ID laws that make it more difficult to vote, right-wing commentators like the Heritage Foundation's Hans von Spakovsky and The American Spectator's John Fund are pushing the voter fraud agenda to the public. When questioned about the vote-suppressing effects of these laws and the absence of any evidence of widespread voter fraud in America, however, voter ID proponents slip on their dancing shoes.
Von Spakovsky, in a November 5 segment on CNN Saturday Morning, was pushed by host T.J. Holmes to explain the justification for these laws, given the lack of evidence that any widespread voter fraud exists. Spakovsky, who last month admitted that there is no massive voter fraud problem in America, dodges answering twice and argues that whether voter fraud is widespread or not isn't important.
HOLMES: What evidence do you have that that's happening on a widespread level?
VON SPAKOVSKY: Well, you don't need it on a widespread level. As the U.S. Supreme Court said when it upheld Indiana's voter ID law, that kind of fraud can make the difference in close elections. And you know, in Missouri, where Ms. Lieberman is from, we had an election just two years ago that was decided by one vote. And if I may say, what's said is Ms. Lieberman has been misled by her attorneys. She is exempt from the voter ID law that Missouri is going to have go in place if it is approved in a referendum. That law, which was passed a couple of years ago, specifically says anyone born before 1941, and that includes her, is exempt, as are people with physical and mental disabilities.
HOLMES: Well sir, a lot of people don't feel that way. And they feel like a lot of people just throw up their hands and say, 'ok, I can't deal with this and can't do this.' And you talked about the Supreme Court case with Indiana - yes, they ruled for Indiana, but also Indiana couldn't come up with a single case of voter fraud there, so I guess where do you see the voter fraud taking place that justifies states changing laws like this?
VON SPAKOVSKY: Well look, I can't give you an inventory here today. I've written about a lot of case studies on various kinds of voter fraud.
John Fund, editor of The American Spectator, was questioned by Media Matters at the Americans for Prosperity's "Defending the American Dream Summit" in Washington, DC where he defended von Spakovsky and struggled to rationalize the voter suppression laws he supports.
MEDIA MATTERS: Hans von Spakovsky was quoted in The New York Times saying that there isn't massive fraud in American elections. Do you agree with him?
FUND: Well, depends on how you define "massive." In some places, it's enormous. In some places, it's not a problem. In some places, it's minor. So it depends. Is there massive fraud throughout all 50 states? No. Is there massive fraud in many states where the elections are close and can decide the presidency? The answer is yes.
MMFA: So you sort of agree with him, sort of don't?
FUND: Well, you know, I think - remember, I talked to him. He was quoted out of context. Now, he did say that, and I would agree with that, but I think the context is important.
While Fund claims that "enormous" fraud is taking place in some states, the record suggests. The Justice Department, for example, prosecuted only 17 individuals for casting fraudulent ballots from October 2002 through September 2005. During that period, DOJ charged a total of 95 individuals with "election fraud," convicting 55. Even Fox News, who has consistently over-hyped the menace of voter fraud, suffered a blow on the issue when America Live host Megyn Kelly was forced to admit that the problem of voter fraud is "not overwhelming."
J. Christian Adams, the former Justice Department Civil Rights Division attorney and New Black Panthers fabulist who has accused the Obama DOJ of setting policies based on race, has finally received his conservative wings. After months of sporadic contributions and a recent tediously-stubborn non-story about DOJ hiring practices, Pajamas Media (now PJMedia) has officially made Adams a regular columnist in the conservative blogosphere.
Adams completed his transformation from wannabe whistleblower to right-wing pontificator by using his first official PJM column to cry "Soros," utilizing the well-worn right-wing shtick of connecting every liberal group or activity they despise back to the alleged manipulations of billionaire philanthropist/super-villain George Soros, as if Soros' involvement was, ipso facto, evidence of the groups' sinister intentions.
In addition to invoking Soros, Adams used his first column to attack a number of voting rights groups, inflate the threat of voter fraud, and promote his new book. Adams writes:
Last month, a collection of groups funded by George Soros held a conference on election law and the upcoming 2012 election. PJ Media has obtained details of the event from an attendee. Our eyes and ears are extensive. [...]
These types of groups exist primarily to attack any effort to combat voter fraud or ensure the integrity of elections. As I write in my book Injustice, there is "an enormous and well-funded industry of voter fraud deniers that provides an intellectual smokescreen for this lawlessness."
Deven Andersen [conference speaker], obviously a top-shelf racialist, casts all Tea Partiers and election integrity proponents as racists: "The Tea Party is a reincarnation of the White Southern Democrats. They want to turn the clock back to 1866 and make blacks second rate citizens again," he told the crowd. "Conservatives don't like people of color. They are stuck in 1866." Specifically, the nut Andersen named the King Street Patriots, a voter integrity effort in Houston, Texas. [...]
While this meeting of nuts might sound fanciful to most Americans, it is indicative of the lengths the voter fraud deniers go to stoke up their base, and scare law enforcement officials from enforcing laws to ensure electoral integrity next year. But now, people are paying attention to their efforts to incite lawlessness.
While "efforts to incite lawlessness" seems a little over-the-top as far as rhetoric goes, what's more important are the factual inaccuracies of Adams' contentions. Adams describes the conference attendees' concerns about new voting laws as nutty, but the serious truth is that a wave of new state voting laws amending identification, proof of citizenship, and registration requirements could disenfranchise millions of legal voters, according to a study by the Brennan Center for Justice.
And while Adams bandies about the term "voter fraud deniers," the fact of the matter is that voter fraud is one of isolated anecdote, not widespread conspiracy-laden epidemic. A mere 17 people between 2002 and 2005 were convicted by the Justice Department of casting fraudulent ballots, according to a report by the Public Integrity Section of the Justice Department. And the Brennan Center study notes that allegations of voter fraud "simply do not pan out." Even Adams compatriot Hans von Spakovsky has acknowledged that there is no "massive fraud in American elections."
Adams will be PJ Media's go-to voice on election law going into the 2012 presidential election year. If these kind of fear-mongering inaccuracies are going to be the bread and butter of Adams' work, then - as with the rest of the posts at PJ Media - let the reader beware.
The Wall Street Journal ignored evidence that newly passed restrictions on voting rights could make it more difficult for millions of eligible voters to vote in 2012, while letting former Bush DOJ official Hans von Spakovsky claim there is "no evidence" those restrictions could suppress voting. The Brennan Center for Justice estimated that changes to voting laws could suppress up to five million votes during the 2012 elections.
In a 1980 speech to evangelical leaders, conservative movement icon Paul Weyrich explained that Christians' "goo-goo" efforts to get every American to vote were flawed because "our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down." He brazenly declared, "I don't want everybody to vote."
Of course, this sort of blatant subjugation of democratic principles below the idol of bare-knuckled partisanship doesn't really play well in public. Over the past few decades, Weyrich's heirs have cloaked their partisan push for voter suppression -- seeking to ensure that "voting populace goes down" so that conservative "leverage in the elections... goes up" -- in the rhetoric of protecting voter rights.
In one recent example, Heritage Foundation senior legal fellow Hans von Spakovsky, a former Bush appointee to the Federal Elections Commission, took to National Review Online to claim that new restrictions on voter registration drives recently established in Florida are "intended to guarantee the enfranchisement of voters."
Von Spakovsky lauded the state's new restrictions requiring organizations to register with the state and turn in voter registration forms within 48 hours of completion. He added of the second law: "I fail to understand how that requirement will keep people from registering to vote."
The answer, of course, is becoming quite clear: The requirements will keep people from registering because they are so onerous that they discourage organizations from doing registration drives in the first place. The Daytona Beach News-Journal reports:
The teacher who heads up New Smyrna Beach High School's student government association could face thousands of dollars in fines. Her transgression? Helping students register to vote.
Prepping 17-year-olds for the privileges and responsibilities of voting in a democracy is nothing new for civics teachers, but when Jill Cicciarelli organized a drive at the start of the school year to get students pre-registered, she ran afoul of Florida's new and controversial election law.
Cicciarelli, you see, didn't register with the state before beginning her registration drive, and failed to turn in the forms within 48 hours. And so, for the crime of improperly trying to get her students involved in the democratic process, she faces fines.
She told the paper that she had wanted to pass the "big thrill" she had felt after first registering to vote on to her students, saying, "I just want them to be participating in our democracy...The more participation we have, the stronger our democracy will be."
Unfortunately, following in Weyrich's footsteps, conservatives like von Spakovsky disagree.
Among his other specialties, right-wing commentator Hans von Spakovsky is a strong proponent of laws requiring citizens to present photo identification in order to vote. Conservatives often justify their call for photo ID laws by raising the specter of voter fraud even though instances of voter impersonation are rare and voter identification laws can disenfranchise poor people and racial minorities.
Now, even Spakovsky has acknowledged that nobody is claiming that there is "massive fraud in American elections."
A New York Times article reports that a new study by NYU's Brennan Center for Justice found that voter identification and other laws "could make it significantly harder for more than five million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012." The article quotes Spakovsky saying that he "[doesn't] think anybody ... says" there's "massive fraud," but that he is concerned about fraud in "close elections":
"The left always says that people who are in favor of this claim there is massive fraud," said Mr. von Spakovsky, of the Heritage Foundation. "No, I don't say that. I don't think anybody else says that there is massive fraud in American elections. But there are enough proven cases in the past, throughout our history and recently, that show that you've got to take basic steps to prevent people from taking advantage of an election if they want to. Particularly close elections."
In advance of a special election in New York's Ninth Congressional District, Fox News and National Review Online are raising the specter of voter fraud in case a Democrat wins the seat. In fact, the evidence they are citing has been debunked, and right-wing media regularly cry voter fraud when elections are close.