By Miriam Raftery
May 15, 2017 (Washington D.C.) – Election integrity experts are voicing alarm over President Donald Trump’s choice to oversee a new commission on election integrity. Trump signed an executive order creating the commission, which he says is needed to investigate voter fraud. The chair is Vice President Mike Pence, but the Vice Chair expected to do the lion’s share of the work is Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State who orchestrated the controversial Crosscheck software system that critics say wrongly disenfranchised millions of voters –nearly all of them minorities.
Representative Jim Ward, a Democrat and Kansas House minority leader who has known Mr. Kobach for 10 years, said Mr. Kobach’s efforts mainly had made it harder for eligible people to vote, the New York Times reports. Ward said. “Whenever I hear Kris Kobach use the words ‘voter fraud,’ what that means in English for regular old folks is voter suppression.”
Award-winning investigative journalism Greg Palast has gone so far as to state that Kobach helped steal the presidential election for Donald Trump. How? By purging 7.2 million minority voters off voting roles in key swing states using the Crosscheck software. Crosscheck to remove duplicate voters with common minority names, even when middle names were different, denying millions of Latinos, blacks and Asians their right to vote.
The Crosscheck purges were enough to make the difference in at least three swing states. In Michigan, Crosscheck dropped nearly 450,000 voters off the roles, and Trump won by just 13,000 votes. Similarly, in Arizona and North Carolina, Trump’s margin of victory was substantially smaller than the number of voters dropped by Crosscheck.
In Kansas, Kobach also implemented other strategies that made it harder for minorities to register and to vote, since the Supreme Court weakened the federal Voting Rights Act. A court overturned Kobach’s effort to block voters who registered under a federal motor voter law from voting in state elections.
Some have suggested that Kobach’s actions may stem from racial bias.
Kobach also headed up Immigration on Trump’s transition team, but has drawn controversy for his ties to anti-immigrant organizations. Kobach has served as counsel for the Immigration Law Reform Institute, the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform or FAIR.
FAIR has been designated as a racist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and drawn criticism for its stances favoring racial profiling and taking money from an organization that supports eugenics, or selective breeding to promote white supremacy.
The new commission created by Trump will “study the registration and voting processes used in Federal elections” as well as “fraudulent voter registrations and fraudulent voting," the executive order says.
President Trump has repeatedly claimed that the reason he did not win the popular vote, only the electoral college majority, was because of voter fraud – a claim he has failed to document though asked repeatedly to do so by major media outlets.
Now the ACLU has filed a Freedom of Information Act request demanding any facts or evidence supporting President Trump's claim that the 2016 presidential election was affected by voter fraud.
Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, called the commission a “boondoggle” adding that the President “has alleged that ‘millions of votes’ were ‘illegally’ cast ‘for the other side.’ No concrete evidence has been provided thus far to support the president’s serious indictment against American democracy. Yet the president’s allegations are the basis of an executive order ... to establish a ‘Commission on Election Integrity,’” the ACLU’s request read. “This FOIA demands that the government release the factual basis and evidence supporting the President’s allegations.”
But Kobach has said the commission is not out to prove Trump’s claims of voter fraud in the presidential election. However, Kobach maintains the commission is important because it's the first time the entire country's various voting systems will be analyzed by one body, the Washington Examiner reports.
Kobach concludes, "It's the first time we'll have a nationwide fact finding effort to see what evidence of what forms of voter fraud there are across the country.”
The National Action Network (NAN), a civil rights organization, issued a statement voicing grave concerns about the commission and the motivation behind creating it. The group's statement reads, "This commission was formed as an attempt to construct legitimacy around baseless claims of illegal voting and to pursue destroying the fundamental foundation of democracy. This attempt disguised as an effort to eradicate voter fraud will lead to voter suppression efforts specifically in marginalized/communities of color where too many face unnecessary barriers."
NAN disputes the need for the commission. "Numerous “studies” have shown that voter fraud has been found to be minuscule. Adding Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach as vice-chair of the commission, someone who has a history of fueling fear of illegal voting without evidence further sends a red flag. To have the Department of Justice address the commission’s findings coupled with Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ long record of hostility towards equal voting rights damages our democracy," the group concludes, adding, "his Administration should focus increasing participation by pursuing greater access to the polls which includes modernizing voter equipment, and voter registration procedures. National Action Network (NAN) will continue to monitor any efforts to suppress the voting participation of minority voters by this commission or any entity on a local, state and federal level."