GOP Senators Trot Out Hans von Spakovsky To Defend Voter ID Laws

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September 8, 2011 8:45 a.m.

Democrats will have a longtime civil rights lawyer and a law professor who conducted an extensive study on voter fraud testify at Thursday’s Senate hearing on the rash of voter ID laws sweeping states across the country. The Republicans will have Hans von Spakovsky.

Republican’s choice of von Spakovsky isn’t all that surprising. After all, he’s pretty much the only person with an expertise in election law who holds the view that voter fraud is a major problem, even if he’s never been able to provide the evidence to back that assertion up.

As longtime TPM readers already know, von Spakovsky was a controversial figure in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and at the Federal Election Commission. He’s been pushing for restrictions on the right to vote for years. Over the objections of career staffers in the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division, von Spakovsky granted preclearance to Georgia’s voter ID law.

“Hans von Spakvosky has certainly spent a significant portion of his career devoted to pushing for photo ID requirements” and other measures which restrict access to the polls,” Wendy Weiser of the Brennan Center said at a panel featuring progressive leaders discussing various efforts to curtail voting rights held Thursday morning. “He certainly comes at this with an agenda.”

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“There aren’t very many other people who share both his knowledge and his views,” Weiser told TPM after the panel. “I read that as people who understand the issues don’t hold those views.”

Weiser and the Brennan Center were in a bit of a squabble ahead of Thursday afternoon’s hearing. Von Spakovsky has taken issue with a 2006 Brennan Center survey which found that as many as 11 percent of citizens — up to 21 million people — lack government issued identification, calling the report “both dubious in its methodology and results and suspect in its sweeping conclusions.”

The Brennan Center issued a response to von Spakovsky’s criticism, standing by their report.

Weiser said that von Spakovsky’s criticism was “completely” without merit. “It doesn’t even appear that he read the study,” Weiser joked.

TPM will have full coverage of the Senate hearing on voter ID laws throughout the afternoon.

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