On Wednesday, with little fanfare, President Donald Trump ended his ‘Voter Fraud Commission’ that he started less than eight months ago.
The full name of the panel was “The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity” – it only met twice, thankfully, and to little effect. NationofChange was denied entry to the commissions discussions even though we were initially promised a seat in the audience.
The short history of the Commission was fraught with controversy and lawsuits, which the White House claims is the reason for it’s demise.
It only met twice and those two meetings were loaded with the usual clown car of voter fraud conspiracy theorists from right wing think tanks. John Fund, National Review Online columnist and Hans von Spakovsky, a Heritage Foundation fellow (and Commission member) staples of the voter fraud speaking circuit since the Bush Administration offered “evidence” in the form of their book on the subject.
The Commission didn’t need outside voices to build the myth that voter fraud was a problem, the President filled its membership with people drinking fraudulent kool-aid.
Beyond Spakovsky, there was Ken Blackwell. Blackwell who was a Trump transition team member as his domestic policy advisor. Beyond his bigoted stances on same sex marriage (he supported the addition of a ban to the Ohio’s state constitution) he also is one of the Republicans most connected with voter suppression. While Secretary of State of Ohio – the person in charge of voting integrity – he also served as honorary co-chair of Bush’s 2004 Ohio campaign, much like Katherine Harris in Florida during the 2000 election.
Not surprisingly many journalists, including Greg Palast and Cincinnati’s City Beat, found that Blackwell pushed every lever to make sure that Bush would win the all important swing state. The Brennan Center for Justice found that Blackwell even went against President Bush’s Help America Vote provisions – such as making provisional ballots available and even refused to comply with judicial orders. The New York Times even called the way he dealt with elections: “example for every ailment in the United States’ electoral process.”
Voter fraud is fraud
Even though multiple studies and investigations have found no evidence of wide spread voter fraud – Trump’s obsession with his loss of the popular vote to Hillary Clinton pushed this expensive commission to search for ways to prove Trumps tweets.
If that was its only goal it would have been bad enough – but it also set out to look for ways to prevent this imaginary fraud.
Professor Lorraine C. Minnite, of Rutgers who is one of the foremost experts on the issue of ‘voter fraud’ stated, “The claim of widespread voter fraud, is itself a fraud.” She told that to Robert F Kennedy Jr and investigative journalist Greg Palast back in 2008 for a Rolling Stone article that dealt with voter suppression in the upcoming election. I was the researcher on the article – I spent months pouring through news stories talking to election officials and spent weeks on the road looking for voter fraud – but at the end of the year I found only examples of voter suppression.
Kennedy, Palast and I weren’t the only ones that haven’t been able to find any evidence of voter fraud screwing with our elections.
The Brennan Center also has time and time again issued reports taking down these claims. One of the Brennan Center’s reports, titled The Truth About Voter Fraud:
“reviewed elections that had been meticulously studied for voter fraud, and found incident rates between 0.0003 percent and 0.0025 percent. Given this tiny incident rate for voter impersonation fraud, it is more likely, the report noted, that an American “will be struck by lightning than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls.”
President Trump has a long record of pulling “facts” out of his ass for his many tweets and rambling speeches but the disinformation that he’s spread about voter fraud – as recently as this week – is not one of these things.
This info was not pulled from any orifice on the Presidents body, he receives his alternative facts from a man that NationofChange readers should be very familiar with – Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
He’s running for Governor of Kansas – the place where a lot of these voter fraud myths are born. As I wrote last year – Kansas is, of course home to three things – yellow brick roads, the Koch Brothers and voter suppression laws.
Kobach, if you forgot is the man behind Trump’s border wall idea and the man that wrote Arizona’s ‘papers please’ law, SB1070.
The Commission, though it only met twice it managed thoroughly ignore anyone that tried to push evidence based research and not scare tactics.
Even it’s own members that tried to speak out were ignored.
Jefferson County Presiding Probate Judge Alan King, told AL.com “I think it’s a wild goose chase. I think it’s an urban legend that there’s widespread voter fraud in the U.S.”
Another member who sued the White House to try and find out simple information about the Commission that he was on said in an interview with ThinkProgress, “[Kris Kobach] said we were stonewalling,” Dunlap said. “I was asking for very basic information. I wasn’t asking for all the inner workings of the commission. I wanted to know what our reference documents were, what are our communications like, who are we talking to, what are we saying to each other, what’s our schedule? And I couldn’t get that information at all, under any circumstances, and that’s why we pursued the lawsuit.”
For voting rights advocates, it’s not a time to celebrate. To misquote Mark Twain, “the reports of the death of the voter fraud commission are greatly exaggerated.”
On January 3rd the White House issued this press release:
Despite substantial evidence of voter fraud, many states have refused to provide the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity with basic information relevant to its inquiry. Rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense, today President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order to dissolve the Commission, and he has asked the Department of Homeland Security to review its initial findings and determine next courses of action.
Kobach in an interview with Politico said, “Anyone on the left needs to realize that by throwing the food in the air, they just lost a seat at the table…”
Asking for transparency in a government entity that might be deciding how elections are carried out is ‘throwing the food in the air’ might be a bit nuts – but he’s not wrong that anyone who is sane on the issue of voter fraud did just lose any say in the witch hunt.
Now the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement will be overseeing whatever this investigation will morph into.
He went on to tell Politico that, “It’s a shifting in tactics from having the investigation be done by a federal commission to having it be done by a federal agency. The agency has a greater ability to move quickly to get the investigation done.”
Personally I’m uncomfortable that the same people that detained a 10 year old child after surgery might be investigating our elections, but what scares me even more is knowing that Kris Kobach might be drifting toward getting his dream job.
See, right after September 11th, Kobach was charged with building a Muslim database while working for Bush’s Attorney General John Ashcroft. It was dismantled by Obama but Kobach last year leaked his own plans to bring it back with a vengeance.
Kobach, while meeting with Trump was photographed holding his plans, thankfully the photo was in high resolution. You can see it here.
— CJOnline (@CJOnline) November 21, 2016
From Vanity Fair’s piece on the photo and the plan back in November of 2016:
The first item, “Bar the Entry of Potential Terrorists,” calls for the reinstatement of National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), a controversial post-9/11 program that required men over 16 years entering the United States from roughly two dozen countries deemed at “high risk” for terrorism to be registered. (All but one country, North Korea, were majority Muslim nations, and the program was effectively discontinued under President Obama.) It also calls for “extreme vetting“ of “high-risk aliens,” including their support for Sharia law, and says the intake of Syrian refugees should be slashed to “zero.” While the remainder of the document is obscured by Kobach’s arm, there appear to be additional references to the wall Trump has promised to build along the U.S.-Mexico border, the Patriot Act, and the National Voter Registration Act. The sub-heading for the second item on Kobach’s “Strategic Plan for First 365 Days” reads: “Deport Record Number of Criminal Aliens in the First Year.”
The ACLU of Kansas sued in an attempt to receive Kobach’s plans specifically for the National Voter Registration Act but after months of legal back and forth they received a heavily redacted document.
What we do know is that Secretary of State Kris Kobach is still one of the most important men in America in the lead up to the 2018 and 2020 elections. We also know that he is still running his voter suppression program, Interstate Crosscheck. Now, he potentially will be working with Homeland Security and have access to their databases.
As Rolling Stone journalist Greg Palast wrote on his website yesterday “Kobach gloats that Homeland Security is exempt from Freedom of Information Act demands and public hearings – that was part of his original plan given to Trump. Kobach claims Homeland Security can REQUIRE states to turn over voter records and can secretly gather lists of ‘double’ or ‘alien’ voters – this is Kobach’s ‘Crosscheck’ on steroids.”
Next week, NationofChange is asking voting rights experts, what would a voting rights commission would look like? What would Kat Calvin of Spread The Vote recommend to a President that would listen? What would Greg Palast investigate with the resources and access of the Presidency?