By Ernest A. Canning on 12/20/2013, 8:24am PT  

"True the Vote" (TTV), the Orwellian-named Republican "voter fraud" front group with a long and sordid history of deception and fraud won't take 'no' for an answer. Release the hounds.

The group has filed a formal notice of appeal [PDF] of U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos' recent refusal to permit TTV to intervene as a party defendant in the U.S. Justice Department's (DoJ) federal legal challenge to SB-14, the Texas polling place Photo ID statute.

Judge Ramos found that the interests of the organization --- which masquerades as an "election integrity" group in order to actually advocate for voter suppression --- were already adequately represented in the lawsuit by the state of Texas itself.

As they were filing their notice of appeal, the disgraced GOP "voter fraud" front man, Hans von Spakovsky --- who also just happens to serve on the "advisory board" for TTV --- challenged the court's rejection of the groups Motion to Intervene in an article published at the right-wing National Review. His work there, as usual, represents a masterful example of deception, dishonesty and well-remunerated cherry-picking. That is, apparently, what Hans von Spakovsky does for a living.

He is amongst good friends in the Republican Fraud community this time out...

Back to the Bushies

TTV is legally represented by J. Christian Adams, a former member of the politicized Bush DoJ, where von Spakovsky did much of his initial damage to U.S. voting rights. In his National Review article, von Spakovsky describes Adams as a DoJ "whistleblower." Joseph Rich, a former Chief of the DoJ's Voting Rights Division described Adams as a paradigm example of the type of illicit, ideologically-based Bush DoJ hiring practices that were exposed by a July 2008 report issued by the Department's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). It was Adams who abused his position in the DoJ's Voting Rights Division by filing a civil rights action against the New Black Panther Party, based upon allegations of voter intimidation that were thoroughly debunked by a 2011 OPR report.

According to Sergio Munoz of Media Matters, Adams' "claim to fame as a federal lawyer seems to be his penchant for accusing black people of discriminating against whites."

Since leaving the DoJ, you'll not be surprised to learn, Adams has become a frequent guest on Fox "News" and a contributor to an obscure right-wing website where he accused the Eric Holder DoJ and the venerable NAACP Legal Defense Fund of possessing a "radical racial agenda" --- part of what Munoz describes as a "tired page of the right-wing media's playbook against those who litigate and uphold longstanding civil rights precedent, a body of law that tends to help...those systematically disadvantaged by racism." That right-wing playbook has included claims that Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor had a "bias against whites" and a statement made during a March 13, 2013 appearance on Fox Business with Lou Dobbs, charging that the DoJ's Civil Rights Division was "infested with racial animus."

Von Spakovsky's nomination by George W. Bush to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) was blocked by then Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) because, as Obama explained at the time, von Spakovsky engaged in "efforts to undermine voting rights at the Civil Rights Division during his tenure at the Department of Justice." Von Spakovsky then took a position with the right-wing billionaire-funded Heritage Foundation. In the years since leaving government service, von Spakovsky has continued to disgrace himself in other forums as well. For example, during a September 2011 U.S. Senate Subcommittee hearing on the spate of GOP voter suppression laws, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) called out von Spakovsky for his use of deceptive, cherry-picked statistics and evasive testimony during the hearing.

Von Spakovsky's latest article not only repeats the Big Lie ("voter fraud") but reflects that, by way of intervention, TTV and their right-wing ideologue legal counsel Adams, seek to place the DoJ itself on trial in order to evade the core, voter suppression issues that have been properly placed before the court in DoJ's challenge against the TX Photo ID restriction law.

Phantom menace and zombie voters

No matter how many times, and in how many different ways, Republicans have sought to spin the rampant "voter fraud" yarn, truth be told, cases of in-person voter impersonation, which is the only type of voter fraud that can possibly be deterred by polling place Photo ID laws, are as scarce as hen's teeth.

As we've noted many times, according to sworn congressional testimony by Loyola Law Prof. Justin Levitt in September of 2011, for instance, there had been just nine (9) possible cases of in-person impersonation out of more than 400 million votes cast at the polls nationwide between 2000 and the time of Levitt's testimony before a Senate Sub-Commitee that year. That was the same hearing where Sen. Franken called out von Spakovsky for his deceptive presentation --- a hearing at which Levitt chastised von Spakovsky for using numbers that would cause him to "fail statistics 101 at just about any college in the country."

A subsequent, exhaustive study by a non-partisan investigative news consortium, which looked at every single documented election fraud case in all 50 states since 2000, found that just ten (10) cases of in-person voter fraud had been reported out of hundreds of millions of votes across the nation during the period 2000 - 2012.

Last year, while trying to defend a similar Photo ID law in Pennsylvania --- a law they claimed was needed to prevent voter fraud --- Republicans entered an in-court admission that they were "not aware of any incidents of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania and do not have direct personal knowledge of in person voter fraud elsewhere."

Yet, Adams insisted in TTV's Motion to Intervene [PDF] in Texas, that the state's Photo ID law was needed to root out and aid in the prosecution of election fraud, which he claimed was TTV's "core mission."

In his article, von Spakovsky went beyond the usual "voter fraud" nonsense, resurrecting the thoroughly debunked "zombie voter" myth.

"If lots of dead people or folks who have moved away are on the rolls," von Spakovsky speculated, "it’s easy to vote in their name without voter ID." He then moved from speculation to a falsehood [emphasis added]: "Such behavior occurs", von Spakovsky proclaimed, without citing a scintilla of evidence, "and True the Vote, which collects such data, was uniquely qualified to present this evidence to the court."

Perhaps by "uniquely qualified", he means no other group in the country was able to be so demonstrably and embarrasingly wrong, so many times, about virtually every "fraud" related claim or report they've ever produced. (See this article or this one, if you have any doubts about that.)

Von Spakovsky's claim about "such behavior" echoes the yarn spun by South Carolina's Republican Attorney General Alan Wilson. He asserted that 923 votes had been cast by "dead people" --- a fact free claim that was first debunked and then eventually buried when an SC Law Enforcement Division closed the 18-month investigation it had initiated at the request of state Republicans. The complaint was dismissed because there was no evidence to support the Republican Attorney General's "zombie voting" fantasy.

Given the many documented instances in which TTV has falsified statistics to support its "voter fraud" fantasies, it is nothing less than a farce for von Spakovsky to pronounce that TTV is "uniquely qualified to present evidence [of 'zombie voting'] in court."

'Implemented without problems'?

"This is the same voter-ID law that was implemented without any problems in the November state election," von Spakovsky writes in reference to the Texas law, first enforced last month after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted a central provision of the Voting Rights Act which had, until the Court's actions, prevented the Republican TX law from being implemented.

"No problems?" Those who were forced to fight against disenfranchisement during the state's recent very-low-turnout election included Texas "District Court Judge Sandra Watts [who] was flagged for possible voter fraud because her driver's license lists her maiden name as her middle name, while her voter registration form has her real middle name." 84-year old Dorothy Card, who had voted for the past 60 years, faced disenfranchisement. Three times she made a long, arduous trip to the TX Dept. of Public Safety (DPS), only to be refused a state-issued Photo ID because she could not obtain a copy of her marriage license.

Texas State Senator Wendy Davis (D), a candidate for governor, was nearly disenfranchised when a poll worker noted "that the name on her driver's license, Wendy Russell Davis, didn't match that on her voter rolls, Wendy Davis."

Jim Wright, the 90-year old former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives faced potential disenfranchisement because, at his age, he had no longer renewed his driver's license, which had expired in 2010. It took several trips to the Texas DPS (thankfully, he had time, money and someone to drive him) before he was finally able to obtain the specific type of state-issued ID now required to vote in TX under their new law.

These well known instances are but a smattering of those who were likely disenfranchised or nearly disenfranchised. They don't even take into account those legal voters who simply didn't bother to even turn out because of the hurdles they faced --- unlike those who conveniently already happen to possess the requisite state-issued ID, such as a drivers license. Last year, a unanimous three-judge panel at the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. found that SB 14 would have a retrogressive effect upon otherwise eligible voters, that would disproportionately affect racial minorities as well as the poor.

But then, given that these are demographics that don't usually vote for Republicans, it is quite understandable why von Spakovsky would not see their disenfranchisement as a "problem."


Von Spakovsky claims that the DoJ opposition to TTV's intervention, and the Judge's agreement that they had no place as a party defendant in the DoJ's legal challenge of Texas' Photo ID statute, was "unprecedented."

Too bad this former Justice Department politcal appointee seems not to have bothered to even read either the DoJ's "opposition" or Judge Ramos' two page decision. Had he done so, he would have learned that the DoJ successfully opposed TTV's intervention in the Department's legal challenge to last year's ill-fated effort by Florida's Gov. Rick Scott (R) to purge "potential non-citizens" from the Sunshine State's eligible voter rolls. He would also have learned that Judge Ramos said she was denying TTV's motion to intervene for the very same reasons that the U.S. District Court in the Florida case had denied TTV the right to intervene.

There's an old saw that law professors tell students, tongue in cheek. If the facts are with you, argue the facts. If the law is with you, argue the law. If you have neither, attack your opponent.

As we previously explained, both the law and the facts render it a near-certainty that SB-14 will once again be enjoined. The facts already established in prior litigation --- facts that the State of Texas was unable to dispute --- together with legal conclusions previously rendered by the unanimous three-judge District Court, make it a near-certainty that SB-14 will not withstand the challenges filed against it pursuant to the U.S. Constitution and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

Unable to point to any evidence of actual in-person voter fraud, TTV, in its motion to intervene, tried to change the subject by complaining about what von Spakovsky says is "the sorry state of Texas voter rolls."

As the near disenfranchisement of Judge Watts and Senator Davis reveal, whatever problems the Lone Star State has experienced with its voter rolls, they will not be solved by Photo ID laws, especially as it relates to women and marital name changes. Indeed, one of the core arguments offered in the DoJ's successful opposition to TTV's motion to intervene was that TTV's effort to focus on "voter registration irregularities" amounts to an effort to unduly burden the litigation by shifting the court's attention away from the legal issues surrounding polling place Photo ID restrictions.

Von Spakovsky then goes on to add:

True the Vote, which is represented by former Voting Section lawyer and whistleblower J. Christian Adams, was prepared to tell the court about all of the abuses of power that the Voting Section has engaged in over the years in enforcing Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

Ah, now we see the real reason for the effort to intervene. They can't defend SB-14 on the merits as against a legal challenge that is based upon the U.S. Constitution and Section 2 of the VRA, but they do hope to both divert the court's attention from the facts and law by defaming the DoJ about its previous success in defeating discrimination via Section 5 of the VRA --- a section that is not at issue in this case --- while making the process of obtaining justice akin to pulling badly impacted teeth.

Speaking of badly impacted teeth, isn't it long past time everybody --- be they a court of law, a mainstream media outlet, or anybody else --- pull the plug on the long-discredited and thoroughly-disgraced members of the George W. Bush Administration and its decaying, rotted, pretend-grassroots organizations?

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Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968). Follow him on Twitter: @Cann4ing.

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