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Obama: FEC nominee unfit to oversee elections
Published: Tuesday June 12, 2007
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Sen. Barack Obama says President Bush's nominee to the Federal Election Commission is more interested in denying voters' rights than expanding enfranchisement and should not be installed on a panel tasked with ensuring fair elections.

Obama says Hans von Spakovsky's partisan influence within the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and his prior roles as a Republican appointee make him unfit for the job.

"Individuals named to the Commission should have a demonstrated record of fair administration of the law and an ability to overcome partisan biases," Obama wrote to the chair and ranking member of the Senate Rules Committee. "Unfortunately, Mr. von Spakovsky's experience ... [does] not demonstrate the evenhandedness required of an FEC Commissioner."

Obama cited von Spakovsky's role in creating a Georgia voter identification law, which career Justice Department lawyers determined would create undue hardship for black voters. Federal and state courts eventually overruled von Spakovsky and found the program unconstitutional.

The Illinois senator and Democratic presidential candidate also noted von Spakovsky's reported role in overriding objections of Justice Department lawyers to what critics say were politically motivated decisions to approve a redistricting plan in Texas.

According to a 2004 New Yorker article, von Spakovsky was "the Administration's chief operative on voting rights," and prior to serving in government he was the architect of an idea aimed at purging felons from voter roles that led to the mistaken disenfranchisement of thousands of mostly Democratic voters in Florida before the 2000 election.

President Bush appointed von Spakovsky to the Commission in January 2006, using another of his infamous recess appointments, which allow him to temporarily delay his requirement to subject nominees for congressional approval.

Excerpts from Obama's letter:


Mr. von Spakovsky’s role in supporting the Department of Justice’s quixotic efforts to attack voter fraud raises significant questions about his ability to interpret and apply the law in a fair manner, as does his decision to ignore the recommendations of long-serving career attorneys on several occasions.  Moreover, his role in the creation of the Georgia voter ID law should have led to his recusal from the Department of Justice’s evaluation of the law.  His failure to recuse himself from that case further demonstrates a lack of judgment that is not befitting an FEC Commissioner.   Unless Mr. von Spakovsky can provide legitimate explanations for his conduct in these matters, I believe that he should not be confirmed to this important position.