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