-by Ryan J. Reilly
September 8, 2011- Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) squared off with voting rights restrictions enthusiast Hans von Spakovsky at at Senate hearing on Thursday, accusing the Heritage Foundation fellow of leaving out a crucial piece of data that undermined his argument that voter ID laws don't suppress minority turnout.
In his written testimony, von Spakovsky said that the fact that Georgia had the highest voter turnout in its history in 2008 when there was a photo ID law on the books was proof that the measure didn't suppress turnout. He compared Georgia's statistics to neighboring Mississippi, a state which also has a significant African-American population.
"For example, Mississippi, a state with a large African-American population just like Georgia, there was only a third of what it was in Georgia," von Spakovsky said during his testimony.
"Can I ask you something?" Franken interjected. "Do you know how much Mississippi grew in terms of black population during those years versus Georgia?"
"I don't," said von Spakovsky.
"Wouldn't that have to factor into the significance of that?" Franken said. "Here's my question: you did a study and you put in your testimony that it was 'significant' that the percentage of black voters grew more in Georgia than Mississippi and you just cited it again. I would think that, as someone who writes studies, it would be significant to know that the black population grew at more than four times the rate than the black population in Mississippi, and I'm wondering how you didn't factor that in," he said. (Franken later corrected himself to say that the black population in Georgia grew at more than three times the rate.)
Franken said that von Spakovsky left out a crucial piece of data.
"I think that's creating an inference, and either you knew it or you didn't know it, but I think you should have checked it out," Franken said. He also suggested that false voter fraud allegations erode confidence in the voting system.
Franken wasn't the only one taking shots an von Spakovsky. Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School who previously authored a report for the Brennan Center which found no evidence of a national problem of voter impersonation fraud, said von Spakovsky's logic was flawed.