By Lydia Wheeler
Nov. 2, 2017
A prominent member of President Trump’s election fraud commission is battling back against “absurd” accusations that the panel is trying to suppress the vote.
In a sit-down interview with The Hill, Hans von Spakovsky dismissed criticism from liberals who say the committee’s main objective is not to stop voter fraud, but to make it harder for some Americans — particularly minorities — to cast a ballot.
“I actually find it amusing when critics say ‘Oh, well, the purpose of this commission is voter suppression.’ Well, that’s such B.S. because, look, this is an advisory commission. It has no executive authority of any kind,” he said.
“The only thing we can do is write a report that makes recommendations and then it’s up to the states or Congress to do something about it. The idea this is somehow going to keep you from voting is absurd,” he said.
A former member of the Federal Election Commission, von Spakovsky is one of the 12 members of Trump’s voter fraud commission, which is chaired by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
The board has been plagued by controversy and legal challenges from the start, in part due to Trump’s widely disputed claim that millions of people voted illegally in last year’s election.
The panel has requested voter roll information from all 50 states, including names, voting histories and the last four digits of Social Security numbers. Officials in 14 states and the District of Columbia have refused to comply.
For his part, von Spakovsky is accustomed to being in the line of fire. Back when he was an attorney in the civil rights division of the Department of Justice, he says people called him a Nazi behind his back, which he contends was due to his conservative views on voting rights and his support for voter ID laws. His family name is actually Russian.
“When I talk about the integrity of the election process, that doesn’t just mean preventing people from stealing votes. It also mean ensuring everyone who’s eligible gets to vote,” he said.
The panel has met twice and is planning to meet again, von Spakovsky said.
The election committee is now down to 11 members, four of whom are Democrats, following the sudden death last month of former Arkansas state Rep. David Dunn (D).
The possibility of bipartisanship on the panel is something von Spakovsky, who runs the conservative Heritage Foundation’s Election Law Reform Initiative, questioned from the start.
In an email uncovered through a Freedom of Information Act request by the Campaign Legal Center, von Spakovsky called a phone call he had about commission membership “disturbing.”
“There isn’t a single Democratic official that will do anything other than obstruct any investigation of voter fraud and issue constant public announcements criticizing the commission and what it is doing, making claims this it is engaged in voter suppression,” he wrote. “That decision alone shows how little the [White House] understands about this issue.”
Reports falsely claimed that he sent the email to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, von Spakovsky said.
He said he’s willing to work with Democrats who take voter fraud seriously.
“I sent that to a third party, a private party, having a private conversation. If you read the email, you will see that what I was concerned about was third-party individuals who would not get on the commission with the intent of it actually doing real work and research of the issue, but whose only mission would be sabotaging the commission,” he said.
“So far at least, it seems like we’ve worked well together.”