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Some critics contend Commission’s aim is voter suppression, not halting voter fraud

By Jordan Damond

July 25, 2017 (San Diego) -- Multiple lawsuits have been filed against Donald Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. Many of them voice concerns that the Commission’s actions could result in voter suppression as opposed to protecting voting integrity.

A federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberty Union makes clear that Trump’s Commission has not been transparent with its actions. “The Commission held its first meeting without notice or making it open to the public. This process is cloaked in secrecy, raising serious concerns about its credibility and intent. What are they trying to hide?” says Theresa Lee, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project.

Another lawsuit by the  Electronic Privacy Information Center questions the preparation process that Trump’s election commission underwent. Apparently, Trump’s Commission did not conduct a privacy-impact assessment before requesting  sweeping voter data from all 50 states. EPIC wrote, “The Commission’s pending action would increase the risks to the privacy of millions of registered voters—including in particular military families whose home addresses would be revealed—and would undermine the integrity of the federal election system. Further, the request for partial Social Security numbers that are often used as default passwords for commercial services, coupled with the commission’s plan to make such information ‘publicly available,’ is both without precedent and crazy.”

In both of these cases, a big focus has been placed upon how the commission conducted its actions. The commission's request for something as personal as voter data--including party affiliation, phone numbers and Social Security numbers from all 50 states-- has resulted in significant backlash from the general public and multiple states. Forty-eight states including California currently have refused to give some or all of their voter data to the commission.

"What it says is some Republicans actually still believe in federalism and that our constitution still governs the way states hold their elections," Rick Wilson, notes  long-time GOP strategist criticizer of Donald Trump.

The outrage at this decision has been greatest in Arizona, Colorado, Florida and North Carolina. These areas experienced a massive surge in voters looking to un-register from voting. Denver experienced one of the largest increases at 2,150 percent.

ACLU has posted an interview with the director of the ACLU voting rights project, Dale Ho. During this interview, Ho was questioned on his immediate thought when he heard about President Trump’s executive order regarding election integrity. He called the commission as ‘sham’ due to the appointment of Kris Kobach as Vice Chair. 

Kobach has a dark history regarding voter suppression as former Kansas Secretary of State, as the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law has documented. Kobach has also supported President Trump’s totally unsubstantiated claim that millions of fraudulent votes were cast in the 2016 presidential election.  Kobach himself had made similar false claims of large numbers of undocumented voters casting votes, even though a decade of research found the rate of voting by non-citizens to be almost non-existent -- only around one-one thousandth of one percent, and 40 of 42 jurisdictions studied by the Brennan Center found not a single case of any noncitizen voting in the 2016 election.

More nefariously, Kobach created the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck database that claimed it would purge duplicate voters off the rolls.  It was used in 27 states with Republican secretaries of state.  According to investigative reporter Greg Palast, it was used to purge 7 million voters off the rolls--predominantly African American, Asian and Hispanic voters.  Palast tracked down many of the voters purged and learned they were not double voters.  In some cases, people with the same first and last names, but different middle names, were purged, for example. Or people with common Latino names in different states were purged, with no effort made to determine whether they were the same person or not.

The margin of purged voters was more than enough to hand Trump victory over Hillary Clinton in key swing states, according to Palast:

Crosscheck in action:  

Trump victory margin in Michigan:                    13,107

Michigan Crosscheck purge list:                       449,922

Trump victory margin in Arizona:                       85,257

Arizona Crosscheck purge list:                           270,824

Trump victory margin in North Carolina:        177,008

North Carolina Crosscheck purge list:              589,393, in an article alleging election rigging involving Kobach, asks, “Why is it more relevant to focus on a crazed and completely unsubstantiated and untrue allegation about 3 million `illegal aliens’ voting, but not a claim by a fellow journalist that 7 million American citizens weren’t allowed to have their votes counted?”

Multiple Democratic lawmakers have sent an 11 page letter to the Vice President, Mike Pence, who chairs the Commission.  The lawmakers oppose the Commission’s request for private voter data, which the Congressional members state is unprecedented by any federal entity.

“The clear majority of our state election administrators -- including numerous Republican elected officials -- oppose the vice chair's request, which was made directly after a secret, unofficial meeting of the commission's members."

The lawmakers’ letter further suggests, “The Commission would better serve American voters if it focused on the growth of voter suppression laws that have spread since the Supreme Court undermined the protections of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder.  In 2017 alone, at least 99 bills restricting access to registration and voting have been introduced in 31 states,” the letter notes, adding that many states have also reduced the number of polling places and imposed restrictive voter I.D. requirements “despite their known discriminatory impacts on voters on the basis of race and other protected characteristics.”

The letter from Congressional members also requests numerous documents, ending with this pointed statement: “The Commission should explore increasing access to voting, not perpetuating the false and damaging notion that massive voter fraud exists in our nation’s elections. We will fiercely oppose any attempt by this Administration to suppress the vote and undermine the protections guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, the national Voter Registration Act, the Voting Rights Act, and other important voter protection laws.”