Caught Up in the ID Law Dispute

Hans von Spakovsky's Justice Department actions are at issue

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President Bush's nomination of Hans von Spakovsky to serve on the Federal Election Commission has put the controversy over state voter identification laws in the spotlight.

Von Spakovsky was the voting counsel in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division from 2003 to 2005. In that role, he supported Georgia's voter photo identification law despite the objections of four of the five government attorneys on a panel set up to make sure the Georgia law complied with the Voting Rights Act, who warned that the law would hurt minority voters because they were less likely to have photo IDs, according to former Justice Department officials. "Spakovsky played a major role in the implementation of practices which injected partisan political factors into decision making," said six former Justice staffers in a letter to senators.

Von Spakovsky, like other Republicans, argues that such strict voter ID laws are needed to combat fraud. Von Spakovsky's election administration experience includes sitting on the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections, which administers elections in the largest county in Georgia.

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School asserts that von Spakovsky's partisan bias extends beyond his signing off on the Georgia bill. Citing recently released E-mails, it says that he tried to quash the U.S. Election Assistance Commission's efforts to support voting ID rules in Arizona and tried to cancel a research contract on the impact of and need for voter ID. (He would not comment for this story.)

Von Spakovsky is now a temporary commissioner on the Federal Election Commission—appointed by President Bush during a congressional recess.