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The No Good, Very Bad Week of Hans von Spakovsky

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If you've followed the conservative attack on voting rights over the past year, you know that the Heritage Foundation's Hans von Spakovsky has emerged as one of the right's most visible spokesmen. With the Supreme Court poised to hear a conservative-led attack on the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act next Wednesday, you would think von Spakovsky would be on the top of the world. Instead, he's increasingly becoming a real embarrassment to the right's efforts.

First, as explained here, one of the most remarkable briefs the court will consider next week is a ferocious brief signed by former Reagan and H.W. Bush Attorney General Richard Thornburgh that is a direct and pointed takedown of an earlier brief filed by von Spakovsky. Safe to say that it's not often that you see such a thoroughgoing rebuke by a conservative Republican former attorney general against an argument made by other conservative advocates. And it's a clear indication of how controversial von Spakovsky has become even in conservative circles.

There is more indication of that today. According to a story broken by the Virginia blog NotLarrySabato, and also reported by the Associated Press, a group of GOP judges just booted von Spakovsky from the Fairfax County Electoral Board. As described in this letter written by the Fairfax County Democratic Committee, in his time on the Board, von Spakovsky had proven himself "temperamentally ill-suited to properly perform the functions and duties of an Electoral Board member for the people of Fairfax County." A panel of GOP judges on the Fairfax County Circuit Court apparently agreed, and broke a long line of precedent in refusing to reappoint von Spakovsky. Here's how NotLarrySabato described what happened:

The parties get to nominate three candidates, but judges usually take the first choice of the party. In Fairfax- judges have never bypassed the top choice of a party in the last 50 years (which is as far back as I could find people that remembered). Also the judges making the decision were all selected for the bench by Republicans in the General Assembly.

So what did these GOP judges decide to do? In an unprecedented move in Fairfax County- judges for the first time in modern history have rejected the top choice of a political party for one of these positions. Instead, GOP lawyer Brian Schoeneman was appointed to the Board.

Coming less than a week before an historic argument in the Supreme Court about the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act, the face of the conservative attack on voting rights is confronting an attack himself, and largely from people you would expect would be his allies. Hopefully the Supreme Court's conservative wing will note the very deep divisions within the conservative ranks about the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act and the snake oil being peddled by Hans von Spakovsky.

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