Trump Appoints Voter Suppression Advocate to Election Commission

In order to defend against the threat to his ego posed by the fact that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, Donald Trump lied and suggested that 3-4 million people voted illegally. In an attempt to justify that lie, he appointed a commission headed up by Vice President Pence and Kris Kobach. Reports yesterday suggest that their work is now underway.

The chair of President Trump’s Election Integrity Commission has penned a letter to all 50 states requesting their full voter-roll data, including the name, address, date of birth, party affiliation, last four Social Security number digits and voting history back to 2006 of potentially every voter in the state.

In the letter, a copy of which was made public by the Connecticut secretary of state, the commission head Kris Kobach said that “any documents that are submitted to the full Commission will also be made available to the public.”

Several states are lining up to deny compliance with this request. The concern was captured by former Acting Director of the Civil Rights Division at DOJ.

The appointment of Kobach to co-chair this commission signaled exactly what the intent was in creating it in the first place. He has a long history of voter suppression infused with his anti-immigrant activities.

But news of this data request wasn’t the only thing that happened yesterday. Less noticed was the fact that Trump appointed an additional member to the commission—Hans von Spakovsky. You may not have heard that name before. But back in 2006/07, he was in the news as the guy Dubya nominated for a position on the Federal Election Commission. Based on his record at the Justice Department, civil rights groups and Democrats fought against his confirmation and he finally withdrew, taking a position with the Heritage Foundation’s Election Law Reform Initiative.

Back in 2012, Jane Mayer wrote about the election fraud myth and included a history of Hans von Spakovsky as the man who, perhaps more than any other individual, is responsible for perpetuating it. The story starts back in 1997 when he led the charge against the National Voter Registration Act (otherwise known as the motor-voter law). It travels through his involvement with the Voter Integrity Project, which gave an award to the group that was responsible for the voter purge in Florida in 2000.

After working on Bush’s recount team in Florida, von Spakovsky received a political appointment to the Civil Rights Division at DOJ. You can read about the various ways he used that position to support voter suppression efforts here. They included providing departmental support to both the Texas re-districting law and Georgia’s voter ID law—both of which were eventually struck down by the courts. Upon hearing of von Spakovsky’s appointment to this commission, Matthew Miller, former DOJ spokesman in the Obama administration, said this:

In many ways, von Spakovsky is to African American voter suppression what Kobach is to immigrant voter suppression. Prior to spending most of his adult life in Georgia, Mayer notes that his parents (German mother and Russian father) had settled in Alabama. She provides this interesting tell about his early years.

Although the civil-rights movement created tumult in Alabama during his childhood, he says that he has no memory of it.

To grow up in Alabama and be oblivious of the civil rights movement is hard to imagine. But if it’s true that he has no memory of it, that means that he was safely ensconced in a world of white supremacy.

What started off as a lie to protect Trump’s ego has now turned in to nothing more than a fishing expedition to justify voter suppression by the racist duo of Kobach and von Spakovsky. There can be no doubt about that. Any Secretary of State or Governor who cooperates with this group in any way is doing nothing more than join that effort.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.