The Slippery Blogging of Election Law Professor Rick Hasen
I’ve watched with slight interest the increasing Democrat partisanship of University of California at Irvine Law Professor Rick Hasen. Hasen is a favorite source of election-law news for the left. His blog, housed on servers at the public UC Irvine, catalogs the left-wing narrative for other professors, students, and politicos to digest.
Rachel Maddow routinely brings Hasen on her show to promulgate his biases in the disguise of scholarly commentary.
His selectivity of content on his blog reveals his biases. Stories about voter fraud? They rarely get mentioned unless it can be demonstrated that “voter ID wouldn’t have prevented” the particular type of fraud he has chosen to report.
Stories about malfeasance in the Obama Voting Section, such as the career recommendation to preclear South Carolina voter ID (a decision later overruled by Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez)? Hasen tweets that he won’t report on that until a “major” (read: liberal) newspaper reports it, or the documents that exist proving the PJ Media story are leaked.
In other words, Hasen will ignore the important story because none of my sources would ever trust his left-wing allies like Maddow with the documents.
Thankfully, senators like Lindsey Graham aren't ignoring the (accurate) reporting.
Hasen subscribes to the theory that only the left-wing goose deserves sauce; the conservative gander doesn’t even exist. This was most recently on display in Hasen’s intellectually dishonest response to the devastating DOJ inspector general’s report on the rancid goings-on inside the Justice Department. He published this article, in which he ignores the findings he doesn’t like and continues to mislead the public about the Bush administration’s handling of voting rights cases.
He also continues to misrepresent facts surrounding PJ Media contributor Hans von Spakovsky. Hasen asserts we all “know” that “senior Justice Department officials in the Bush era, including Hans von Spakovsky, overruled the recommendations of career civil-service attorneys in the section to approve Georgia’s controversial voter identification law.”
We all “know” this? In fact, page 87 of the IG report specifically says that the long-time “career civil service” chief of the Voting Section, John Tanner, recommended that the Georgia voter ID law be precleared. Von Spakovsky -- who was also a career civil service lawyer at Justice, although you would never know that from Hasen’s misleading article -- didn’t overrule anyone.
Hasen also says we all “know” (that arrogant word again) the Bush administration “made decisions widely perceived to help Republicans, such as approving Texas’ mid-decade re-redistricting of its congressional seats to create more safe Republican seats, an effort partially overturned by the Supreme Court after finding it violated the Voting Rights Act.”
Again, we do not all “know” this -- especially the inspector general, who disagrees with the professor. The inspector general specifically says on page 114 that “allegations of politicized decision-making in Section 5 decisions were not substantiated.”
The approval of the Texas congressional redistricting plan that Hasen is referring to was a Section 5 case. The IG report says that there were “strong differences of opinion” over the Texas Section 5 matter, but that after careful review, the IG “could not conclude that the positions taken … were inconsistent with applicable law or that they were offered as a pretext for advancing partisan objectives.”
If you are one of Hasen’s students, beware. When he describes a case as settled, consider the source.
Von Spakovsky told me that he asked Hasen in writing to correct his false assertions about the Georgia voter ID case because Hasen clearly intended to give his readers:
… the misleading impression in the Texas matter that the Supreme Court’s ruling showed that the preclearance decision was wrong. In fact, the violation the Supreme Court found that Hasen was referring to was under a different part of the Voting Rights Act, not Section 5, but Hasen never mentions that. The Supreme Court opinion actually vindicated the Bush administration’s approval of the Texas redistricting plan. The Supreme Court agreed with the Bush administration’s conclusion that there were only eight majority-minority congressional districts that needed to be preserved in the Texas redistricting plan. The one violation they found had no applicability to the Section 5 issue.
You would think a professor cares about accuracy. Sadly, among leftist election law professors, that is often not the case.
Hasen’s article grudgingly admits that the IG report concludes: “Many Bush-era decisions, such as those over Georgia voter ID law, were also within the policy discretion of Justice Department officials.”
Many? Actually, what the IG report says on page 115 is that “there were legitimate, non-discriminatory bases for the substantive enforcement decisions made by Division leadership in the high-profile, controversial cases handled by the Voting Section since 2001, and that these reasons were not a pretext for improper racial or political considerations.”
That means all, not many.
In fact, in several of these cases, the enforcement decisions made by the Bush administration “were vindicated by subsequent judicial decisions,” according to the report. That's called vindication. Contrary to the false assertions that Hasen has been making for years, the IG found no evidence of partisanship or politics in the enforcement decisions made during the Bush administration, including when Hans von Spakovsky was a career lawyer there.
Given the false and malicious personal attacks that Hasen has mounted on von Spakovsky over the years, this IG report must frustrate him.
But readers of Hasen’s blog, and his students, must recognize that they are getting at best only half the story, and at worst a false narrative. Thankfully, these days, the role of any professor in moving a narrative has been replaced by ratings powerhouses like Fox News, conservative media, and other sources more widely read than an academic’s blog.