Conservative Veterans of Voting Wars Cite Ballot 
Integrity to Justify Fight
By Eliza Newlin Carney
Roll Call
September 26, 2012

Call them the voter fraud brain trust. A cadre of
influential Washington, D.C., election lawyers has
mobilized a sophisticated anti-fraud campaign built
around lawsuits, white papers, Congressional testimony,
speeches and even best-selling books.

Less well-known than Indiana election lawyer James Bopp
Jr., who's made a national name for himself challenging
the political money laws, conservative veterans of
voting wars such as Hans von Spakovsky and J. Christian
Adams nonetheless play a role similar to Bopp's in their
behind-the-scenes fight to protect ballot integrity.

Both former Justice Department officials, von Spakovsky
and Adams have worked alongside such anti-fraud
activists as Thomas Fitton, president of Judicial Watch,
and Catherine Engelbrecht, president of the tea party
group True the Vote.

They've quietly stoked fears of election fraud among
bloggers and grass-roots activists and buttressed a
national ballot integrity movement built around pushing
new state voter ID laws, cleaning up the voter rolls and
mobilizing hundreds of volunteer poll watchers to bird-
dog voters on Election Day.

Other leaders in the Beltway anti-fraud brigade include
GOP election lawyer Cleta Mitchell, president of the
Republican National Lawyers Association, and Wall Street
Journal columnist John Fund, who helped launch the anti-
fraud movement with his 2004 book "Stealing Elections:
How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy."

Also active is the nonprofit American Civil Rights
Union, which bills itself as a conservative counterpoint
to the American Civil Liberties Union and runs a
"Protect Your Vote" website that warns, "Vote Fraud
Steals Your Most Precious Civil Right."

"This is a new area for conservatives to understand and
figure out," Judicial Watch's Fitton said. His group has
mounted what he calls "the first lawsuits of their kind"
to force election officials in Florida, Indiana and Ohio
to strip ineligible voters from the rolls. Fitton said
his group promotes compliance with Section 8 of the 1993
National Voter Registration Act, which requires election
officials to "make a reasonable effort" to remove
ineligible voters from the rolls.

Voting rights activists have cast the anti-fraud
movement as a politically motivated voter suppression
effort funded by the billionaire businessmen Charles and
David Koch. The Koch-funded American Legislative
Exchange Council dismantled its Public Safety and
Elections Task Force after accusations that ALEC had
written model voter ID legislation adopted in several

"They have substantial experience in high-level
conservative politics and the Justice Department, and
they have been able to provide a sheen of credibility to
the groups that are working with them," said Stephen
Spaulding, staff counsel at Common Cause and co-author
of a recent report with the public policy group Demos
dubbed "Bullies at the Ballot Box: Protecting the
Freedom to Vote Against Wrongful Challenges and

Common Cause and such voter protection groups as the
Brennan Center for Justice at New York University's
School of Law argue that scant evidence exists of in-
person voter fraud. They've also gone to court to fight
a wave of new state laws that require photo IDs at the
polls, curb voter registration and roll back early
voting, as well as voter roll "purges" - all steps that
they argue will disproportionately disenfranchise
minority, elderly and student voters.

The voter ID fight has dragged in the Justice
Department, which has intervened to block new ID laws in
Texas and South Carolina. The issue is expected to land
before the Supreme Court.

Von Spakovsky, for one, counters that warnings of voter
disenfranchisement are not substantiated. A former
Federal Election Commissioner and now a senior fellow at
the Heritage Foundation, von Spakovsky wrote an analysis
this year noting that turnout in Georgia did not decline
after its enactment of a voter ID law but actually

The polarized debate "is sometimes frustrating," said
von Spakovsky, who recently published a book with Fund
titled "Who's Counting? How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats
Put Your Vote at Risk." "But I feel like people who are
in favor of election integrity are winning. Because in
all the litigation that's been filed over the last 10
years, the people challenging these laws have almost
uniformly lost."

Adams, who worked with von Spakovsky at the Justice
Department, is on the vanguard of that litigation as
principal of the Election Law Center, a conservative law
firm focused on voter fraud. Adams has been involved in
more than three dozen voting-related lawsuits all over
the country, he said, including in Ohio, Florida, Guam
and Texas. He pointed to his role helping ensure that a
Minnesota voter ID proposal will be considered as a
ballot initiative this fall.

"You've heard all these people say it's legislators who
tend to pass voter ID," Adams said. "We're going to find
out in November whether an entire state wants it. So I'm
particularly happy to have helped get that on the ballot
in November."

Von Spakovsky and Adams served at the Justice Department
at a time when the Brennan Center lawyers, among others,
accused the agency of using politically motivated
prosecutions to suppress the vote. Conservatives counter
that the agency has politicized election issues by
turning a blind eye to abuses. Adams wrote a best-
selling book after leaving the agency titled "Injustice:
Exposing the Racial Agenda of the Obama Justice

About the only thing both sides agree on is that their
opponents have the facts wrong. Whichever side public
opinion and the courts land on, the cottage industry of
anti-fraud law, not unlike the voter protection
movement, can only grow.

"These are beginning lawsuits for us. We're in it for
the long haul," Fitton said.


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