Editorial: Good riddance to the voter fraud commission

There was no reason to trust Trump and Kobach to protect the ‘integrity’ of our elections

President Donald Trump, with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, left, and Vice President Mike Pence, right, speaks at a meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The White House announced Wednesday that Trump had dissolved the commission. (July 2017 file photo/The Associated Press)

On Wednesday, President Trump dissolved the voter fraud commission that Secretary of State Kris Kobach served as vice chairman. The White House released a statement that cited “endless legal battles” the commission faces: “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.”

 

The commission was established shortly after Trump claimed that 3 million to 5 million illegal votes were cast in the 2016 election. He didn’t produce any evidence. He selected a range of numbers that would encompass the 2.8 million more votes cast for Hillary Clinton. And he insisted that every single “illegal” vote went to his opponent: “Those were Hillary votes. And if you look at it they all voted for Hillary. They all voted for Hillary. They didn’t vote for me. I don’t believe I got one. Okay, these are people that voted for Hillary Clinton.”

This was a jarring moment: To make his performance in the election sound more impressive, the president-elect cynically and recklessly questioned the very legitimacy of American democracy. And he simply asserted his point — he didn’t cite any studies or identifiable discrepancies in the states where “Hillary votes” allegedly were cast. He didn’t acknowledge the possibility that he could be wrong. And Kobach dutifully backed him up: “I think the president-elect is absolutely correct when he says the number of illegal votes cast exceeds the popular vote margin between him and Hillary Clinton.”

These were the people who promised to protect the “integrity” of our elections with the voter fraud commission.

On Wednesday night, Kobach complained that the commission faced a “barrage of meritless lawsuits” (eight lawsuits have been filed against the commission by organizations such as the ACLU and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law). When Kobach sent letters to election officials in every state requesting personal voter data (such as addresses, political affiliations, voting history, criminal convictions, registration history and the last four digits of Social Security numbers), many states refused to comply. Opponents often cited Kobach’s history of trying to disenfranchise voters who couldn’t provide citizenship identification when they registered in Kansas.

They were right to be concerned. Despite the fact that voter fraud is exceedingly rare in our state, Kobach almost succeeded in preventing thousands of Kansans from casting their votes in the 2016 election. This was yet another case where litigation was crucial to preserve the rights of American voters. The ACLU filed four successful lawsuits against Kobach, which ensured that voters who didn’t provide citizenship documents when they registered were still allowed to participate in the election. Moreover, when Kobach tried to create a confusing dual system of registration that only allowed these citizens to vote in federal elections (but not state and local ones), a state judge blocked this effort.

Kobach wants us to think it’s a shame that the commission was disbanded: “In a perfect world, the commission would’ve moved swiftly and there wouldn’t be any lawsuits.” But those lawsuits prove that our system is still working as it should.

We know too much about Trump and Kobach to believe the voter fraud commission was established to protect the integrity of our elections — it was established to prove an indefensible point, and we have every reason to believe it was actually a vehicle of voter suppression. We’re glad it’s gone.

Members of The Capital-Journal’s editorial advisory board are Zach Ahrens, Matt Johnson, Ray Beers Jr., Laura Burton, Garry Cushinberry, Mike Hall, Jessica Lucas, Veronica Padilla and John Stauffer.

 

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