Monday, July 16, 2007

(ACTION ITEM) FEC nominee in voter suppression flap. Again.

Front paged at Booman Tribune, ePluribus Media and My Left Wing. Recommended at Daily Kos

If you needed any more reasons other than the myriad of reasons I stated in the three-part series of why Hans Von Spakovsky is quite possibly the worst choice for FEC Commissioner, well, then today is your lucky day.

As reported the other day in the St. Louis Dispatch, von Spakovsky shot down a lawsuit and plan to make voting a bit more fair and representative of the population in Missouri. This, of course, is no real surprise to anyone who has even remotely followed von Spakovsky’s career that included working in Florida for the 2000 recount, ramming voter ID laws through in Georgia and Arizona over DOJ voting rights section experts, assisting with Tom DeLay’s bordering on if not outright illegal mid census redistricting in TX and a slew of other actions that served to suppress millions of likely Democratic voters during his stint at the DOJ’s voting rights section and as a recess appointment to the Federal Elections Commission.

All in the name of “enforcing the Voting Rights Act or the Help America Vote Act”.

I won’t go into all of von Spakovsky’s sordid history here, but you can read the details at the ePluribus Media link above. However, I will say that he is up for confirmation in the Senate for a full term on the FEC, now that his recess appointment has lapsed. And, his responses to the Senate committee were, shall we say, less than forthcoming.

That being said, a bit of history is warranted. A while back, I did a diary (also with the good folks at ePluribus Media) about another DOJ Voting Rights Group employee, Robert Popper. The article, titled Voter Rights: Is Robert Popper the Fox Guarding the Henhouse? talks about some of Popper’s actions as Special Litigation Counsel for voting rights at the DOJ. He too has a history of actions and lawsuits that he took on, in the name of “making districting more fair and equitable” (not his exact words) or enforcing the Voting Rights Act.

Some of these suits were also signed off by Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General. I mention this for a number of reasons – first to indicate that Gonzales was well aware of these tactics and that as Attorney General, he at least had nominal oversight of these actions.

Prior to coming over to the DOJ, Popper developed a highly controversial plan that was a thinly veiled attempt at gerrymandering. Per the Popper diary linked above:

Popper and Polsby also authored a law review article titled "Ugly: An Inquiry into the Problem of Racial Gerrymandering Under the Voting Rights Act," which asserted that "ugly" (meaning misshapen) districts were not accurately representing the voting demographics of a particular district. Popper and Polsby advanced the thesis that the creation of "compact" districts that did not take into account the racial composition of a district was superior to the creation of majority-minority districts that gave minorities representation in rough proportion to their percentage of the population. While the Polsby-Popper reports contend that compactness will restrain gerrymandering and other proponents indicate that compactness will "reverse prior Democratic gerrymandering," there are many opinions to the contrary.

One, Harvard University study's simulations (by Micah Altman, who is Associate Director of the Harvard-MIT Data Center), indicated that "district compactness can systematically influence election results."

I mention this because the case dealing with von Spakovsky now is somewhat of an “affirmative action” type of case as it relates to the layout of a district for local election purposes. Specifically, I mention this because one might think that a lawsuit that would realign the voting process for these purposes (even though in this instance it is to more fairly represent the district is not something that the DOJ voting rights section should be involved with. But on the contrary, Popper, von Spakovsky routinely were involved in things of this exact nature but to have the opposite effect – to dilute minority districts in order to skew the election demographics towards a more likely republican victory.

So when von Spakovsky killed this plan in Missouri, he was going against actions that he and his “people” took over the disagreement and disapproval of career DOJ employees and experts in the area of election law.

Per the article in the Dispatch:

For more than a year, a team of veteran attorneys in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division crafted a lawsuit arguing that Hazelwood School Board elections violated voting-rights laws.

The attorneys had seen a pattern they found disturbing: Only two black candidates had won election to the seven-member board during the past decade, in a district where about 65 percent of the nearly 20,000 students and about 40 percent of the voting population are black.

In early 2004, the staffers made a pitch to their deputy assistant attorney general, arguing that the trend could be stemmed if the school district scrapped its at-large election setup and had candidates run in subdistricts.

Three months later, the officials said, Hans von Spakovsky — counsel to their boss — vetoed the plan, in effect killing the suit.

I’ll repeat that so it can really sink in.

A plan that was okayed by local officials, and even others at the DOJ voting rights section, which would more fairly represent the demographics of a district that DOJ attorneys felt violated voting-rights laws was killed by von Spakovsky. Why? Same reason as all of the others – it wouldn’t favor republican electoral chances (not that von Spakovsky would come out and say that, but hey, if you are batting 1.000 with respect to this area, I think it is fairly obvious).

We mentioned in the ePM von Spakovsky article, as well as in other posts that are linked there that there is ample evidence of other career DOJ employees being overridden for what THEY call “partisan politics”. And in this case, the same charge is being levied:

Greenbaum and six other former Justice Department lawyers contend otherwise.

In a letter to the committee, they said von Spakovsky "violated the sacred rule that partisanship should be checked at the door of the Justice Department. Moreover, he was the point person for undermining the Civil Rights Division's mandate to protect voting rights."

Among its many duties, the Justice Department targets jurisdictions whose at-large election methods dilute the votes of minorities, said Joe Rich, former voting rights section chief from 1999 to 2005, and one of those who signed the letter.

And this man is up before the Senate for a full term appointment as FEC Commissioner. Obviously, he is completely unqualified to serve in this capacity as a highly partisan republican with the history he has.

Take Action: At the bottom of this excellent diary by Ice Just Ice are links to contact information for Senate Committee on Rules and Administration members.

Contact them and let them know that Hans is not the man for the Commission.


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