Voter Suppression Guru Says He's Doing Poor People a Favor

Hans von Spakovsky said that voters who are facing disenfranchisement should really be thankful for new, discriminatory voter ID laws

Here is a sample ballot during early voting in September 2012 in Waterloo, Iowa.

DENVER, Colorado — During a panel on voter ID laws, the Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky declared at the Colorado Conservative Political Action Conference that voters who are facing disenfranchisement should really be thankful for new, discriminatory voter ID laws being introduced by conservatives across the country:


VON SPAKOVSKY: Getting the very few people who don’t have an ID an ID is very easy. And in fact, we should be happy that people have to get an id like that. Why? Because you cannot function in today’s society without an id. And anyone who doesn’t have one, we’re doing them a favor. We are helping them to get identification they will then need to do all kinds of things. Like if they want to apply for public systems or welfare, you need an ID. You want to do all kinds of other things, you need an ID.

Watch it:


Von Spakovsky’s condescending and offensive remarks about people on welfare aside, his comments on the number of people without government-issued identification are false. The non-partisan Brennan Center for Justice at New York University has published an exhaustive study which shows that 11 percent of all eligible voters nationally don’t have a government-issued photo id. That figure climbs dramatically for college students, seniors, minorities and low-income voters.

Von Spakovsky has a long history of voter suppression dating back to his time as a George W. Bush appointee to the Federal Election Commission, where, according to the Washington Post, he used “every opportunity he had over four years in the Justice Department to make it difficult for voters — poor, minority and Democratic — to go to the polls.”

Now from his perch at the far-right Heritage Foundation, he and fellow conservatives have spent the last few years promoting new voter ID laws in states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania in an attempt to solve the country’s non-existent voter fraud problem. Since 2000, there has been about one case of voter impersonation per every 15 million votes cast, according to a report fromProPublica. That’s compared to an estimated 21 million eligible voters who don’t have a state-issued ID.

Scott Keyes is a researcher for the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
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