Spakovsky: Commission doesn’t have the power to restrict voting

A member of the White House voting commission is test-driving a new line to defend the beleaguered panel from claims that it’s designed to suppress voting: we don’t have any power.

“I actually find it amusing when critics say ‘Oh, well, the purpose of this commission is voter suppression,’” Hans von Spakovsky (pictured), a former FEC commissioner and a longtime conservative leader of the push for restrictive voting laws, told The Hill.

“Well, that’s such B.S. because, look, this is an advisory commission. It has no executive authority of any kind,” Spakovsky continued. “The only thing we can do is write a report that makes recommendations and then it’s up to the states or Congress to do something about it. The idea this is somehow going to keep you from voting is absurd.”

Of course, the claim makes no sense. It’s true that the commission is charged only with writing a report with recommendations on how to stop illegal voting. But if the whole project weren’t intended to have an impact, why bother with it?

The fear among voting advocates is that by recommending and advocating for a set of restrictive voting policies — aggressive purges of voter rolls, proof of citizenship requirements, ID laws, and so on — the commission will lay the groundwork for allies in the states and in Congress to get those policies implemented.

It’s embarrassing that von Spakovsky is pretending not to understand this, and that The Hill is taking it at face value.

Von Spakovsky’s claim comes amid reports that the voting commission’s work is on hold as it deals with a slew of lawsuits aimed at hampering its work. Democratic panelists also are accusing the commission of keeping them out of the loop.

Von Spakovsky also used the interview to call for an investigation into about 5,500 people in New Hampshire who last year registered to vote using out-of-state drivers’ licenses, but hadn’t gotten a New Hampshire license by the end of August of this year.

“What if there were Massachusetts residents who drove the 30 miles across the border in order to take advantage of the same-day registration law because they wanted to help ensure the outcome of the race?” von Spakovsky asked.

Kris Kobach, the de facto leader of the voting commission, recently seized on the same issue to suggest widespread illegal voting. And the idea that liberal out-of-state voters are illegally swaying New Hampshire elections is a fear that state Republicans have long voiced — it was even used to justify a restrictive new voter registration law passed by the state. But there’s never been any evidence for it whatsoever.

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