Must-Read Jane Mayer Profile of Hans von Spakovsky

Jane Mayer has written The Voter-Fraud Myth: The Man Who Has Stoked Fears About Imposters at the Polls for The New Yorker.  This piece covers similar terrain to The “Fraudulent Fraud Squad” chapter of The Voting Wars, but it is updated and written in Jane Mayer’s straightforward, powerful style.  Most importantly, von Spakovsky granted Mayer an interview and allowed for follow-ups, and so here was von Spakovsky’s chance to really make his case for voter impersonation fraud (the principal kind of fraud that a voter id law would prevent).  Time and again von Spakovsky made his claims, but they collapsed like a house of cards.

A few highlights:

On the 1984 grand jury report: As I described in The Voting Wars, von Spakovsky wrote in a FOX News oped (following up on a Heritage Foundation report) that:  “In 1984, a district attorney in Brooklyn, N.Y. (a Democrat), released the findings of a grand jury that reported extensive registration and impersonation fraud between 1968 and 1982.”  Von Spakovsky stonewalled on providing the report to me, the Heritage Foundation never responded to my letter indicating that good scholarly practice requires sharing one’s data so results can be confirmed, and when I finally got a copy of the report (with no help from von Spakovsky) it did not show any extensive impersonation fraud—the fraud here involved election officials and party officials, not a conspiracy of voters to impersonate voters.

In the New Yorker piece, von Spakovsky’s explanation:

Richard Hasen asked to see the grand-jury report, but von Spakovsky did not respond. (“What am I—his research assistant?” he asked me.) Hasen has another explanation for von Spakovsky’s refusal to produce the document: “He must have known it was weak.” Hasen eventually hunted down his own copy. On his blog, he observed, “Most of this fraud took place forty years ago,” adding, “When election officials collude with those committing fraud, a voter-I.D. requirement would not help in the slightest.” Asked about this, von Spakovsky said, “That’s not what the grand jury said. They recommended voter I.D.s.” The report recommends nine specific procedural changes to help prevent corrupt behavior by election officials, but says of voter identification only that it should be studied as one of several “possible remedies.”

Note the shift from extensive impersonation fraud (his original claim) to a (questionable) claim that they recommended ids.

Criminals voting for dead voters in Georgia: 

[In support of the claim that impersonation fraud is a problem, von Sapkovsky] cited a 2000 investigation, by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, of voting records in Georgia over the previous two decades; the paper reported that it had turned up fifty-four hundred instances of dead people being recorded as having voted. “That seems pretty substantial to me,” he said.

He did not mention that the article’s findings were later revised. The Journal-Constitution ran a follow-up article after the Georgia Secretary of State’s office indicated that the vast majority of the cases appeared to reflect clerical errors. Upon closer inspection, the paper admitted, its only specific example of a deceased voter casting a ballot didn’t hold up. The ballot of a living voter had been attributed to a dead man whose name was nearly identical.

Once again, a claim of “substantial” fraud completely unsupported by the evidence.

Illegal Somali voting.  Regular ELB readers know of von Spakovsky’s false statements about a case in Missouri in which he claimed there was substantial fraud.  From The New Yorkerˆ:

Von Spakovsky has also presented a more recent case as a scandal. Last year, in an op-ed piece that was nationally syndicated, he wrote, “A 2010 election in Missouri that ended in a one-vote margin of victory included 50 votes cast illegally by citizens of Somalia.” He told me that these voters “could only speak Somali, even though to become a U.S. citizen you must learn English.” Once again, when the case was examined by a judge, no fraud was found. Although the judge’s ruling had been issued before the column appeared, von Spakovsky didn’t mention it. He told me that the omission was justified, because the judge hadn’t investigated “the citizenship issue.” Yet the voters’ citizenship was never in doubt. Translation assistance is available at the polls—citizens sometimes have shaky English—and the court had found merely that election officials had not made the voters take an oath before receiving help, as state law required. The judge determined that such a mistake “should not result in the disenfranchisement of the voters.”

I could go on with more details, but better for you to read the whole thing.

And if you want to know more about John Fund, Thor Hearne, and the rest of the Fraudulent Fraud Squad, check out The Voting Wars.

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