Heritage Foundation Slams John Lewis Voting Rights Act as ‘Invasion of State Sovereignty’

The Heritage Foundation's Hans von Spakovsky (Photo from Heritage Foundation website)

Hans von Spakovsky, a Heritage Foundation senior legal fellow and advocate of restrictive voting laws, denounced the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act as “an unbelievable invasion of state sovereignty” in a podcast interview promoted Tuesday morning by the right-wing think tank’s “news” service, The Daily Signal.

Von Spakovsky claimed that the bill, also known as H.R. 4, would give “federal bureaucrats” the “ability to veto any state election laws and rules they don’t like.”

In truth, if you peel away Spakovsky’s rhetoric, what the voting rights bill would actually do is give lawyers at the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division the authority to review potentially discriminatory changes in state voting rules, an authority used ​by the division for years to protect voters in areas with a track record of discriminating against minorities​ until the Supreme Court in 2013 gutted key portions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act with its decision in Shelby County v. Holder.  The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, like some provisions of the For the People Act, is a legislative response to that decision by the court’s right-wing majority​. ​And the court’s decision this year in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee further eroded protections for voters from ethnic or racial minority groups. Without those provisions in place, Republican state legislators have been free to push wave after wave of restrictive and discriminatory voting rules into law.

The podcast promoted a Washington Times commentary by von Spakovsky published earlier this month, in which he warned that “the left” is “using election reform as a Trojan Horse” to eliminate the legislative filibuster and open the floodgates “for all their extremist policies.”

A longtime promoter of debunked claims about supposedly widespread voter fraud and a member of Trump’s short-lived sham “election integrity” commission, Von Spakovsky baselessly charged that the left, in cahoots with civil rights division attorney, are out to “arrange things so it’s easy to cheat and easy to manipulate election results.”

The Heritage Foundation is part of a massive right-wing coalition effort that has gathered force since former President Trump’s reelection defeat to pass more restrictive voting laws in the name of “election integrity.” Many new state voter suppression bills and laws appear to draw from the Heritage Foundation’s extensive prescriptions. Heritage encourages states to, among other things, require that only forms of voter ID that “prominently display” whether an individual is a citizen or noncitizen would be acceptable for voting. Heritage says states should ban automatic voter registration and same-day registration.

Heritage also encourages states to ban election officials from automatically mailing absentee ballot request forms or ballots to all voters or to those who have voted absentee in the past, and to limit absentee ballots to “those individuals who are too disabled to vote in person or who will be out of town on Election Day and all Early Voting Days.”

Right Wing Watch noted earlier this year:

Hans von Spakovsky, who leads the Heritage Foundation’s Election Law Reform Initiative, pushes claims that voter fraud is an extensive problem and advocates for more restrictive voting laws. He also served on Trump’s commission on voter fraud and urged the White House not to appoint any Democrats or moderate Republicans to the commission. In 2018, a federal judge slammed von Spakovsky for making “myriad misleading statements” about purported voting by noncitizens. In February, von Spakovsky compared the second impeachment of Trump to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s show trials of political opponents. In 2016, von Spakovsky waged an unsuccessful campaign against President Barack Obama’s pick to be the Librarian of Congress, claiming that she had just been chosen because she was a woman of color and wasn’t fit to be an advocate of “American cultural greatness.”