Abrams v. Von Spakovsky on “Voter Suppression”

Phil Kent

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2019

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Defeated 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams recently expanded her voting rights group to 20 competitive states to protect against threats of “voter suppression.” However, former Georgian and senior Heritage Foundation legal fellow Hans von Spakovsky declared before a Georgia Public Policy Foundation audience yesterday that “voter suppression is a myth.”

“My mission is to make sure that no one has to go through in 2020 what we had to go through in 2018,” Abrams has said– a reference to her narrow defeat by now-Gov. Brian Kemp by approximately 55,000 votes. She was defeated in Georgia because of a “stolen” election due to “voter suppression” when Kemp was secretary of state, she repeatedly claims. Von Spakovsky, however, countered:

“In 2018, according to the Pew Research Center, the percentage of Latino voters nearly doubled over the 2014 election, the last congressional election without a presidential race. That came close to presidential year election totals. The share of black votes climbed 10.5 percentage points. The idea that there is voter suppression across the country is not true.”

As for Georgia, he emphasized, “you had record registration and turnout.” Much of that increase, by the way, is the result of a change to driver’s license forms enacted three years ago under then-Gov. Nathan Deal. With that change, new applicants and renewals are automatically registered to vote unless they opt out.

That automatic voter registration helped fuel a 15 percent increase in Georgia’s active voter rolls to about 6.3 million in September 2018 from about 5.5 million in November 2016. Black registered voters went up 15 percent, Hispanic voters 40 percent and white registered voters went up by about 10 percent.

Finally, the Heritage scholar, addressed voter identification laws and any effect on voting:

“We have a lot of data on this. There have been all these studies showing that turnout has gone up; in fact, it went up dramatically in Georgia with its voter ID law in place for the first time. There was a study just released by the National Bureau of Economic Research that looked at 10 years of research – 2008 to 2018— from around the country to see if voter ID had an effect on turnout. Its report concluded, and I quote: ‘Voter ID has no negative effect on registration or turnout overall or for any specific group regarding race, gender, age or party affiliation.’”’

Von Spakovsky, a former Sandy Springs resident who served for two years as a member of the Federal Election Commission during President George W. Bush’s administration, is currently a member of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.