FEC Designed for Fairness, Not Partisanship

Leadership in the Senate should not trade votes on Hans von Spakovsky for the other nominees for appointment to the Federal Election Commission (FEC). Instead, they ought to listen to the growing chorus of civic organizations and civil rights leaders in opposing the confirmation of von Spakovsky.


Von Spakovsky has been serving as an FEC commissioner since 2006 because of a recess appointment, having been named to the post while Congress was not in session, so there has been neither Congressional scrutiny nor approval of his appointment. He has deservedly come under fire for a long history of work to undermine the voting rights of minorities.


In an unprecedented five-page, single-spaced letter sent to the Senate Rules Committee, several top former career officials in the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Voting Section complained that, during his career at DOJ, von Spakovsky was a partisan pol whose mission was to derail voting rights actions. They also charged him with intimidating DOJ staff who wanted to pursue voting rights actions and hired staff based on partisan affiliations. About half of the career lawyers in the Voting Section, some serving as long as 20 years in the office, left the section under von Spakovsky’s watch.


Von Spakovsky was instrumental in providing pre-clearance to a discriminatory voter ID requirement in Georgia. Moreover, he derailed an investigation of a biased Minnesota rule invalidating tribal ID cards at voting polls and supported Tom DeLay’s partisan redistricting plan in Texas.


The Georgia voter ID law was widely criticized for potentially disenfranchising up to 200,000 African-Americans and continues to be embroiled in litigation. DeLay’s Texas gerrymandering plan was ruled unconstitutional for diluting the Latino vote by the U.S. Supreme Court. Indeed, each of von Spakovsky’s actions in both obvious and subtle ways, undermined the voting rights of minorities. These are unacceptable credentials for an elections officer.


Hans von Spakovsky is not the type of elections officer who would inspire public confidence that our elections will be managed in a fair, nonpartisan way. There are many qualified individuals who could serve on the FEC who would not face such grave doubts about their partisan objectives and lack of judgment.


Confirmation would give von Spakovsky a seat on the FEC until the year 2011. In view of the nation’s urgent need for a fair and democratic election system, Congress should reject this anti-democratic nominee.