August 28, 2009
Amidst all the eulogies for the “liberal lion” of the Senate — Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts — one important part of his legacy is often mentioned in passing, if it gets mentioned at all. That legacy is Senator Kennedy’s role in expanding and protecting voting rights for all Americans.
Because of Ted Kennedy’s work, millions of American voters are able to participate in the most basic function of a citizen in a democracy: they are able to make their voices heard at the ballot box and vote for the candidate of their choosing. Read the rest of this entry »
August 25, 2009
Instead of hiring the fox to guard the chicken coop, why not hire him to give advice on chicken coop security? That seems to be the attitude behind the appointment of voter suppression guru Hans Von Spakovsky to an advisory position in Virginia. http://www.virginiafreepress.org/2009/07/11/vote-suppression-expert-spakovsky-about-to-be-confirmed-in-volunteer-civil-rights-post/
The U.S. Civil Rights Commission apparently couldn’t find another way to keep Von Spakovsky involved in his favorite pastime — finding ingenious new ways to keep minority voters (especially Democratic-leaning ones) from exercising their rights at the ballot box. Read the rest of this entry »
November 5, 2007
It is rare that another writer ties everything up in such a neat package such that I want to quote the entire thing. But today’s NYT editorial links several newsworthy items in a very cogent way so I will include the entire piece here.
A House Judiciary subcommittee was the site of a sad spectacle the other day: John Tanner, who heads of the Justice Department’s voting section, trying to explain offensive, bigoted comments he made about minority voters. It was a shameful moment that crystallized the need for immediate steps to fight for the rights that Mr. Tanner has been working so hard to undermine.
The administration should, of course, fire Mr. Tanner. Congress should pass a bill to criminalize deceptive campaign practices. And it should reject a pending nominee to the Federal Election Commission, Hans von Spakovsky.
The Justice Department has a long history of protecting the voting rights of minorities. In the Bush administration, the department’s voting rights section has been taken over by ideologues most interested in denying the ballot to minorities, poor people and other groups likely to vote Democratic.
The Justice Department endorsed a Georgia law that would have required many voters to pay for voter IDs, a requirement that a federal judge rightly likened to a poll tax. Mr. Tanner said publicly that blacks are not hurt by ID requirements as much as whites because “they die first.” He was assuming that ID laws disadvantage elderly voters, because they are less likely to have driver’s licenses. And in Mr. Tanner’s world, blacks are likely to die before they become elderly.
As Representative Artur Davis, Democrat of Alabama, made clear in pointed questions, Mr. Tanner had no factual basis for making this claim. Mr. Davis noted that in Alabama, data from the 2004 election showed that blacks over 60 voted at a higher rate than whites over 60.
Mr. Tanner also suggested that black people are likely to have an ID because they need it when they go to check-cashing stores. Again, Mr. Davis showed that Mr. Tanner relied on stereotypes. Then a former employee of the voting section testified that Mr. Tanner regularly used “broad generalizations” and misused statistics.
There have been calls for Mr. Tanner to be removed, and he should be, but that is not enough. The Senate must refuse to confirm Mr. von Spakovsky, an anti-voting-rights advocate cut from the same cloth as Mr. Tanner, to the F.E.C. Based on his record, Mr. von Spakovsky would use the job to undermine the right to vote.
Congress should also pass the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act, sponsored by Senator Barack Obama, which would criminalize misleading and intimidating actions used to prevent voters, particularly minority voters, from casting ballots.
This administration seems to believe that the right to vote is something only Democrats should care about. It is too important to be reduced to a partisan issue.
The only comment to make at the end of this is a resounding “AMEN!” Let the Hallelujah Chorus begin …
November 4, 2007
There was an interesting post on Firedoglake (one of my favorite sites) this week about the pending nomination of Hans von Spakovsky to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC). Christy Hardin Smith is speculating that this nomination may be in more trouble than has been publicly known.
For those who haven’t been following the career of Hans, here is the eloquent condemnation by the marvelous Christy at http://www.firedoglake.com/2007/10/28/hans-down/#more-12542
Try von Spakovsky sockpuppeting an article about voter suppression in violation of DOJ rules while he was still an employee there ostensibly working on civil rights issues. Or how about participating in an effort to disenfranchise elderly Native American voters in Arizona on a technicality rather than working to find a way to support their right to vote. Or the entire gaming the system for The Math scheme at the DOJ. Or that a number of his subordinates at the DOJ wrote in to the Senate to say that von Spakovsky has neither the ethical underpinnings nor the commitment to voting integrity that should not be gamed for political purposes to be anywhere near the FEC. And there is so much more: see Digby and Adam at ePluribusMedia, for starters.
Christy was responding to ominous Washington Post musings suggesting that the end of the sky was falling (or something equally dire) if the four nominees for the FEC (including the infamous voter suppression specialist von Spakovsky) were not immediately confirmed. Why, the FEC would be unable to function with only the two current members … it would be short-staffed (gasp of shock). So the Senate should rush right out and confirm the whole bunch — whadya waiting for, folks — hurry, scurry — get it done.
This ignores what Christy rightly calls
the odor of political gaming of voter’s rights that eminates from von Spakovsky’s long record of partisan action
Hans von Spakovsky should not be given a six year appointment to any agency having anything to do with elections, including the FEC.
“This is the first nomination that the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights has ever opposed,” said Wade Henderson, the group’s president. He said he thinks that von Spakovsky would “use his role at the FEC to make it more difficult for voters to exercise their franchise.”…
Because of concerns about von Spakovsky’s track record on voter suppression, Senators Feingold and Obama have both placed holds on the nominations of the block of four current nominees. Because of a “deal” the four nominations (2 Democrats and 2 Republicans) are set to be voted on as a block rather than individually. This “all or nothing” approach would prevent von Spakovsky from getting an up-or-down vote on his own (de)merits.
The block should be busted and each nominee should get a vote on their own record. Then there would be accountability. Then the U.S. Senate would be exercising their true “advise and consent” function under the Constitution. Hans von Spakovsky should be denied a free pass and be voted down based on his record.
October 21, 2007
Von Spakovsky should be in jail for his crimes against voting rights — I agree with Obama that this guy has done nothing to earn a 6-year appointment to the FEC. After turning the concepts of voting rights protection on its head while working in the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ and after being sneaked into his current position via a “recess appointment”, the Senate Dems should show some spine and send him back to whatever rock he crawled out from under. Note what Barack Obama has to say about why he is putting a Senate “hold” on this appointment.
Bush’s FEC nominee undermined voting rights
More than 40 years ago, John Lewis and Hosea Williams, along with hundreds of everyday Americans, left their homes and churches to brave the blows of Billy clubs and join a march for freedom across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Thousands of anonymous foot soldiers – Blacks and Whites, the young and the elderly – summoned the courage to march for justice and demand freedom. A few months later, the Voting Rights Act was signed into law.
It’s because of the sacrifice of these American heroes that we’ve come so far today. But there’s more work to be done. Recent elections have shown unprecedented intimidation of African-American, Native American, low income and elderly voters at the polls. We’ve seen political operatives purge voters from registration rolls for no legitimate reason, distribute polling equipment unevenly, and deceive voters about the time, location and rules of elections.