The Danger of the Commission on Election Integrity (And the Bravery of State Governments)

This news story went largely unnoticed over the last few days, and while the issue of Donald Trump’s attacks on MSNBC hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski are important in measuring the character and maturity (or lack thereof) of our President, it is at last starting to see the light of day. Just a few days ago Kris Kobach—Kansas Secretary of State and one of the heads of the commission—asked all fifty states for the voter roll data that they have by July 14. On these rolls include voter names, dates of birth, the last four digits of their Social Security numbers, party affiliation, addresses, and a list of elections any voter participated in within the last decade. To my surprise and hope the reaction was immediate and widely negative to this clear effort to collect the private information of the American voters. Only one state as of this date has decided to comply with the request at full, that being New Hampshire. Eleven states are outright refusing the request, while the rest are either waiting, demanding that it only be public voter information, or their intentions are completely unknown.

The intent of this so-called committee is to compare the voting records to census records to ensure that only legal residents and non-criminals are voting, and while examining the voting record to ensure that voting fraud should be the one and only goal of doing so, I have no trust that this administration will stop there. What is to stop the government from using these voter rolls for their own purposes? Could they be leaked and made public, effectively destroying the sanctity of the secret ballot. And can the Republican Party overcome the temptation to not use this date when received for their own purposes in the upcoming midterm elections. While these questions are unknown, I would not trust any partisan government with this data, whether they be on the left or the right. The refusal of all but one state to give out the data in full and the growing list of states refusing to comply in general is impressive, and it includes a list of states which in 2016 have voted both Democratic and Republican, turning this into one of the few issues that Americans agree in no matter where they live or who they voted for.

Following the varied responses by the states, President Trump himself responded on Twitter, stating that “Numerous states are refusing to give information to the very distinguished VOTER FRAUD PANEL. What are they trying to hide?” Like Trump did after his election, Kobach also echoed the claims that millions of voters voted illegally against him, and since then he has claimed that he only would have won the popular vote if people who voted against him did not vote against him. These claims are unsubstantiated and not based in reality. Nevertheless, Trump continues with these claims to this day. The true record of voter fraud in this country is minute, with some thirty-one instances of voter impersonation across the country since the 2000 elections. In addition to that, there were only four verifiable instances of voter fraud in the 2016 election. It is clear through this data that voter fraud when it occurs is on such a minor scale that it is nowhere near enough to change the course of an election, and that if there were millions of cases of voter fraud in the last election that people in such a conspiracy would speak out.

And while this commission seeks to reduce the voter rolls by comparing census records with them, inevitable there will be innocent voters who will be removed for varying reasons. Proof of citizenship laws across the country have led to legitimate voters being removed from voting records and unable to vote in subsequent elections. In fact, in 2014 fifteen million voters were removed nationwide. While many of these cases were simply cleaning up deceased voters or those who have moved, others in areas with minority voters were removed despite having legitimate cause to vote. When organizations such as the ACLU and the League of Women Voters challenged proof of citizenship laws in some states—including Kansas—Kris Kobach dismissed these challenges, stating that “The ACLU and their fellow communist friends, the League of Women Voters—you can quote me on that, the communist League of Women Voters—the ACLU and the communist League of Women Voters sued.” Rather than discuss the issue seriously and to consider a different point of view, Kobach instead goes back to the old Cold War-era criticism of political opponents by wrongly accusing them of being communists.

To me it is evident that this issue is not over, especially once President Trump became involved, but now with states refusing to hand over the records it is clear that this will be a long and drawn out battle like Trump’s Muslim Ban or the repeal and replace of Obamacare. My opinion on this issue is clear, that the sanctity of the secret ballot must be preserved, and should not be broken for the sake of security or whatever partisan battle happens to erupt in Washington. However, I feel that the Mississippi Secretary of State—Delbert Hosemann—says the negative response to this effort the best, that “They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi is a great state to launch from.”

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