Hans von Spakosvksy

About Hans von Spakosvksy

Hans von Spakovsky uses his position at the Heritage Foundation to push right-wing and election voter fraud conspiracy theories, and advocate for laws that limit access to voting.

Hans von Spakovsky is a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s legal and judicial center and leads the Heritage Foundation’s election law division. He is also a director at the Public Interest Legal Foundation. In these roles, von Spakovsky uses false, misleading, and exaggerated claims to advocate for laws that limit access to voting. 

Von Spakovsky is notably the author of the Project 2025 playbook on the Federal Election Commission. In Project 2025’s “Mandate for Leadership,” a MAGA manifesto for a future conservative presidential administration, von Spakovsky suggests a slew of adjustments to protocols that ultimately aim to neuter the FEC and redirect power to a government-appointed position or agency.

After graduating from Vanderbilt Law School, von Spakovsky worked as a government affairs consultant in a corporate legal department and in private practice. According to a report from New York Times Magazine, von Spakovsky “became obsessed with the specter of voter fraud” after working as a poll watcher. This experience led him to become the Republican Party chairman in Fulton County, Georgia, and a Republican appointee to the Fulton County Registration and Election Board. He also became an advisory board member for a group called the Voting Integrity Project, which investigated claims of voter fraud, and worked on George W. Bush’s team during the 2000 Florida recount, after which he was appointed to a position in the Department of Justice, where he worked in the Civil Rights division on voting-related issues.

Von Spakovsky’s time at the Department of Justice was marked by controversy. During his tenure, more than half of the career lawyers in the voting section he oversaw left in protest

  • In 2005, von Spakovsky played a central role in the department’s approval of a controversial Georgia law enacting strict voter ID requirements over the objection of staff lawyers.
  • Before Georgia’s law was submitted to the department for review, von Spakovsky had an article published under a pseudonym in the Texas Review of Law and Politics advocating for similar voter ID laws, prompting the ACLU to file a complaint that by not recusing himself from the case, he may have violated department guidelines.
  • Von Spakovsky argued against the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act in 2006, though it was ultimately reauthorized by a nearly unanimous vote and signed into law by the Bush administration.
  • As a board member of the Election Assistance Commission, von Spakovsky allegedly engineered the removal of commission head Paul DeGregorio after DeGregorio resisted von Spakovsky’s overtly partisan agenda, according to sources familiar with the situation.
  • The Justice Department also unsuccessfully sued to purge voter rolls in Missouri during von Spakovsky’s tenure, and he supported a mid-decade redistricting in Texas that a court rejected.

In 2006, von Spakovsky was appointed to the Federal Election Commission by George W. Bush, but after mounting opposition during the confirmation process, he ultimately withdrew. 

Von Spakovsky joined the Heritage Foundation around 2008. The reports he produces for the foundation often rely on false, misleading, and unfounded claims to back up his assertions about widespread voter fraud, and he frequently makes baseless claims about Democrats trying to “take over” elections. He has published columns with inflammatory titles such as, “Michigan’s secretary of state fights to keep dead on voter rolls.” He also uses his column at Heritage to push for voting laws that would make it more difficult to vote.

  • Von Spakovsky helps run Heritage’s Election Fraud Database, a running list that currently includes 1,384 “proven instances of voter fraud.” In a 2017 review, the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice concluded the database and documents produced from it for former president Trump’s Fraud Commission were “grossly exaggerated and devoid of context,” noting these cases of fraud were out of billions of votes cast, were decades old in some cases, and that there were “only a handful pertaining to non-citizens voting or impersonation at the polls.”
  • Former president Donald Trump’s “Fraud Commission” relied on Heritage’s database to support its baseless claim that the election was stolen from Trump. Von Spakovsky distributed a copy of the database at the commission’s first meeting.
  • Von Spakovsky said that a 2010 Missouri election that was won by a one-vote margin had 50 Somali-speakers vote in it – to him, clear evidence of voter fraud. However, experts noted that all 50 voters were registered U.S. citizens and von Spakovsky’s claims rested on a small clerical error. A judge presiding over the case said that the mistake “should not result in the disenfranchisement of the voters.”
  • In a 2012 interview with The New Yorker, von Spakovsky cited an Atlanta-Constitution Journal study that found 5,400 dead people that voted in Georgia from 1980-2000. However, von Spakovksy did not mention that the study was later revised because the “Georgia Secretary of State’s office indicated that the vast majority of the cases appeared to reflect clerical errors.” After revision, the study could only find one case of voter fraud.
  • In the same 2012 New Yorker interview, von Spakovsky directed the reporter to two experts he claimed could back up his claims about widespread voter fraud. Both experts claimed they supported voter ID laws if the government made voter IDs free and easy to obtain, which they claimed Republicans did not support. One of the experts, Robert Pastor, director of the Center for Democracy and Election Management at American University, refuted von Spakovsky’s claims, responding, “I don’t think that voter-impersonation fraud is a serious problem.”
  • Von Spakovsky’s 2012 book, Who’s Counting?, alleged widespread voter fraud in the 2008 election of former Sen. Al Franken (D-MN). Election supervisors in Minnesota who investigated von Sapkovsky’s claims responded that “Those numbers are fraudulent…Their research was bad, sloppy, incredible. They are just liars.”
  • When Trump alleged without evidence he had lost the 2016 election’s popular vote due to rampant voter fraud in California, von Spakovsky published an essay that claimed Trump’s claims could not be challenged because “we have an election system that’s based on the honor system.”
  • In 2018, von Spakovsky testified in support of a strict voter ID law in Kansas. The federal judge overseeing the case said von Spakovsky’s testimony was “premised on several misleading and unsupported examples of non-citizen voter registration, mostly outside the State of Kansas.” The judge further pointed out that von Spakovsky “could not identify any expert on the subject of non-citizen voter registration.” The judge further chastised von Spakovsky after he “admitted during cross-examination that he had no personal knowledge as to whether or not any of these individuals had in fact falsely asserted U.S. citizenship when they became registered to vote and that he did not examine the facts of these individual cases.”

In the runup to the 2020 election, von Spakovsky held a series of private, closed-door meetings with state-level Republican lawmakers and officials concerning election administration. The meetings came as then-President Donald Trump was raising unfounded concerns of voter fraud in the upcoming election. Von Spakovksy’s meetings centered on concerns over the expansion of mail-in voting and “ways to message these concerns to your constituents.”

Months before the election, a civil rights group led by Black union leaders called on the Ohio Secretary of State to increase the number of absentee ballot dropboxes to ensure a safe election during the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, the Ohio Secretary of State’s office quickly wrote to von Spakovsky and organized off-the-record strategy sessions. With von Spakovsky’s guidance, Ohio placed strict limits on dropboxes ahead of the 2020 election. Evidence at the time suggested Democrats were more likely than Republicans to vote absentee.

Von Spakovsky also sat on the board of “social welfare” group Nations In Action while it spread #ItalyGate, a debunked QAnon adjacent conspiracy that military satellites based out of Italy were used to steal the 2020 election for Joe Biden. Trump demanded the Justice Department investigate the conspiracy. Nations In Action’s sister group received funding from right-wing activist Leonard Leo’s Judicial Crisis Network.

Following the 2020 election, von Spakovksy co-authored a book titled Our Broken Elections: How the Left Changed the Way You Vote,” which promoted his long-time conspiracies of voter fraud and systematic election fraud.

Von Spakovsky claimed that Mark Zuckerberg improperly influenced the 2020 election by supplying private funding for the expansion of safe voting measures in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Von Spakovsky characterized Zuckerberg’s election security grants as a “carefully orchestrated attempt to convert official government election offices into get-out-the-vote operations for one political party and to insert political operatives into election offices in order to influence and manipulate the outcome of the election.” NPR claimed that Zuckerberg’s private grants to support election systems “saved the 2020 election.” In 2022, the FEC rejected complaints about Zuckerberg’s spending in a unanimous, bipartisan vote. There has since been a GOP effort to ban private supplemental funding for election systems.

After repeated attempts to dispute the 2020 election results failed, right-wing forces pushed increasingly restrictive voter suppression efforts. According to the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice, in 2021 “at least 19 states passed 34 laws restrict­ing access to voting.” Von Spakovksy’s employer’s sister group, Heritage Action For America, bragged to its donors about how it helped to write Georgia’s restrictive voter suppression law after Democrats won multiple key elections in 2020. The New York Times called the law “a breathtaking assertion of partisan power in elections.” Von Spakovsky has dismissed such concerns as “much ado about nothing.”

Von Spakovsky is the author of the Project 2025 Playbook on the Federal Election Commission. In Project 2025’s “Mandate for Leadership,” a MAGA manifesto for a future conservative presidential administration, von Spakovsky suggested a slew of adjustments to protocols that ultimately aim to neuter the FEC and redirect power to a government-appointed position or agency:

Many advocates for voting rights have criticized von Spakovsky for his false and misleading statements, and legislative positions on voting rights: 

  • Late Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis said von Spakosky was “the moving force behind photo I.D.s […] over the years he’s been hellbent to make it more difficult—always, always—for people to vote.”
  • According to the University of California at Irvine law professor, Richard L. Hasen, von Spakovsky’s claim that voter fraud by the Democratic Party is “common” helped make the theory “part of the Republican orthodoxy.”
  • When von Spakovsky was nominated for a position at the FEC, J. Gerald Hebert, who once led the Justice Department’s voting section and served as executive director of the Campaign Legal Center, said Spakovsky had “devoted much of his legal career to suppressing minority voting rights,” and added that he thought “von Spakovsky’s record demonstrates that he will use his office to elevate partisan concerns among legitimate law enforcement concerns.”
  • ProPublica called von Spakovsky “a leading purveyor of discredited voting fraud claims.” 

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