Photo: Lauren Gerson

Hans von Spakovsky Lies about Voter Fraud. Now He’s Testifying Before Congress

, Kendall Science Fellow | January 28, 2019, 3:28 pm EDT
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On Tuesday, House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler has called for the first hearings on House Resolution 1, the sweeping anti-corruption and electoral reform bill that is the first introduced in the 116th Congress. Possibly the most important election legislation introduced since the Voting Rights Act of 1965, HR1 would eliminate barriers to voter registration, expand and improves ballot access, implement new cybersecurity standards for voting systems, require independent redistricting commissions, implement new ethics standards, and set up a robust, innovative public campaign finance system.

The most important voter registration and ballot access components have already received widespread public support, and have been implemented by over a dozen states, through Democratic and Republican leadership. According to recent surveys, more than two-thirds of Americans support automatic voter registration, six in ten support same day registration (including three quarters of young Republicans), and supermajorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents want non-partisan redistricting and the elimination of gerrymandering.

There is solid scientific backing that demonstrates the efficacy of such reforms. Last year the Center for Science and Democracy produced a report, Building a Healthier Democracy, that reviews much of the scientific literature. In that report, we showed that, among a variety of electoral reforms, eliminating voter registration barriers would have the largest impact on increasing voter turnout.

And yet, once again, we see that a small but virulent group of pseudoscientific charlatans, intent on restricting participation in elections, are attempting to stop these reforms. Somehow, someone on the committee has placed the thoroughly discredited Hans von Spakovsky, whom you may know from such previous debacles as President Trump’s defunct voter fraud commission, among the list of those who will testify at the hearing.

It is remarkable that von Spakovsky is testifying before this committee. He has been formally rebuked by a federal judge as a biased and misleading witness, and was caught on tape lying to reporter Jessica Huseman about being the author of a letter to then Attorney General Jeff Sessions, seeking to keep Democrats and moderate Republicans off of the voter fraud commission.

Judiciary Committee members should therefore begin with three simple questions for Mr. Spakovsky, in order to allow them to move on to an adult discussion of the promise and challenges of these electoral reforms.

Question One: Just this week President Trump claimed that voter fraud is rampant in Texas, where he claimed over 50,000 non-citizens have voted, and “especially” in California. What evidence does Mr. Spakovsky believe there is of widespread voter fraud in Texas (which already has a strict voter identification law, by the way) or California?

Correct Answer: None. President Trump had parroted a Fox News segment about a statement from TX Attorney General Paxton that 58,000 non-citizens may have voted since 1996. This claim was immediately verified as false by several Texas newspapers, journalists familiar with Texas voting law, and political scientists, who have repeatedly shown that voter impersonation fraud is nearly non-existent.

Question Two: The last time that von Spakovsky testified before a federal court, how was his testimony regarding claims of voter fraud characterized?

Correct Answer: In a suit that resulted in Trump voter fraud commission chair (and former KS Secretary of State) Kris Kobach being held in contempt, von Spakovsky’s past claims about voter fraud were put under cross examination. The judge cited “myriad misleading statements” from Spakovsky, in addition to a “lack of academic rigor” associated with his analysis, and his repeated admissions that he was “unaware” that previous claims he had made were refuted with actual scientific analysis. The court concluded that the legal record is “replete” with “evidence of Mr. von Spakovsky’s bias.”

Question Three:  How much weight have the federal courts given to Mr. von Spakovsky’s previous testimony?

Correct Answer: “The Court gives little weight to Mr. von Spakovsky’s opinion” because it is premised on “several misleading and unsupported examples of non-citizen voter registration.

Electoral reform and voting rights are policies that deserve expert scrutiny and robust scientific analysis, but Hans von Spakovsky and his financial supporters offer only misinformation and deception. It is time to get serious about electoral reform, and there is simply no place for von Spakovsky in a serious conversation.

Photo: Lauren Gerson

Posted in: Science and Democracy, Science Communication, Scientific Integrity Tags: , , ,

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  • abj_slant

    “Somehow, someone…”?

    Apparently, at least one person on the committee thought Spakovsky’s input had value. In his defense, he was a former member of the Federal Election Commission, and I wouldn’t discount his potential contributions.

    Yes, the spread of disinformation from groups that he represents, such as the Heritage Foundation, is harmful to the democratic process. OTOH, it is precisely that disinformation that should be put in the spotlight, and who better to be the catalyst than Spakovsky?

    Shine bright lights on the cockroaches instead of pushing them into the nooks.

  • Bobby Kope Kopras

    There is no way this oligarchy, nor its ignorant, frightened minions, is ever going to allow real election reform of the type that would make “our” government an actual representation of the country’s populace. They “wined & dined” the U.S. Supreme Court in order to enact “Citizens United” and overturn the last attempt at making this much closer to a true republic (it’s never been a democracy, to which most are not aware). These types of cheats – Citizens United, stealing Obama’s Supreme Court appointment, three consecutive Republican presidential victories in which they lost the popular vote, dishonest attacks on science, reduced funding of critical agencies, etc, etc – have led to a polarization on the “left” that is completely understandable, yet unfortunately seems to mirror the divisive and intolerant attitudes of the far right. All that said, as long as there remains a bastion battling for Truth, there is also Hope for a better future.