“Asking Cookie Monster to be your pastry chef is like asking Kris Kobach to head your voter fraud commission”
By Doug Porter
Given that today is “Root Canal Appreciation Day,” it seems appropriate to share some painful news coming out of Washington DC: President Donald Trump has signed an executive order setting up a commission to review election integrity.
ABC News reports senior administration officials saying Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach will be Chair and Vice Chair of the ‘Presidential Commission on Election Integrity.’
As is true with so many actions announced by the administration, this executive order is based on a falsehood, offers up multiple opportunities for implementing a right-wing social agenda, and serves to flatter Donald Trump’s fragile ego.
The Big Lie
By inflating voter fraud claims (votes actually cast) to include failed attempts at illegal voter registration (votes prevented from being cast) the right wing media has served up a steady stream of stories aimed at convincing readers in the fallibility of the electoral process.
My favorite was the National Review piece published shortly before the 2016 general election claiming to debunk the popular assertion about lightning striking people being less common than voter fraud. In addition to the usual cast votes vs registration scams, it also presumed that people struck by lightning were always killed. (Research indicates 90% of those struck by lightning survive.)
This is how we ended up having Trump’s unsubstantiated claim that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election, thus costing him the popular vote.
In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 27, 2016
Presidential advisor Stephen Miller has often repeated the Pants-on-Fire rated claim about voters being bussed in from Massachusetts.
Gregg Phillips, the creator of VoteStand, an app for reporting voter fraud, claimed via twitter in November to have documented 3 million votes cast by non-citizens in California. He has yet to produce documentation, despite promises to produce evidence.
At the time, PolitiFact reported that Phillips would not say what the data is or where it came from, or what methodology he used. He said he would release the information publicly once he is finished.
In an interview on CNN on Jan. 27, 2017, Gregg Phillips again refused to release any evidence supporting his claims about voter fraud, saying he needs more time to prepare it.
The same day, Trump tweeted he’s waiting and watching for Phillips’ report:
“Look forward to seeing final results of VoteStand. Gregg Phillips and crew say at least 3,000,000 votes were illegal. We must do better!”
Shortly after taking office in January the President promised via twitter he’d be asking for a “major investigation” into voter fraud, vowing to “strengthen up voting procedures.”
A Washington Post investigation into voter fraud found just four substantiated cases examples of people committing voter fraud during the 2016 general election– 0.000002 percent of the ballots cast in the race for the White House.
So the presidential commission will include a review of voter registration, voter “suppression” and best practices. The word suppression is in the mix in the hope of some Democrats being willing to participate. Although early reports quote White House officials promising it will be bi-partisan, all the known commitments are from Republicans.
The Kansas Connection
Vice chair Kris Kobach has a particularly odious history of advocacy.
From Talking Points Memo:
Kobach is the engineer of a number of laws and proposals that were struck down by the courts, including a proof-of-citizenship requirement for voter registration in Kansas that has been tied up in a multi-year legal battle. Multiple courts have ruled against his efforts to implement the requirement, and at one point, he was threatened to be held in contempt-of-court for allegedly refusing to comply with a court order against it.
Arizona’s “show me your papers” law was crafted with Kobach’s assistance. While at the Justice Department under President George W. Bush, he also was behind the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, which essentially functioned as a registry for Muslim men entering the country. Kobach floated the idea after Trump was elected that the program may be revived.
Kobach was a major Trump booster and lobbied for tougher language on building a wall on the Mexican border to be added to the Republican platform. In November, Kobach was photographed with Trump holding a proposal sheet that included a line that said “Draft Amendments to National Voter….,” presumably a reference to the National Voter Registration Act. As part of the litigation over the proof-of-citizenship requirement, a judge ordered he turn over the paper, and Kobach’s appeal of the decision failed just this week.
Racism in Indiana
Vice President Pence is no angel when it comes to voting rights, either. Even though they had no jurisdiction under state election laws, the Indiana State Police executed a search warrant on the headquarters of the Indiana Voter Registration Project on October 4, 2016.
They seized applications, laptops, paperwork and even personal cell phones, along with barring access to the office by an attorney during the raid as they lined volunteers up against the wall. Later on, the ISP expanded their investigation from two counties to 56, even though IVRP only had activity in nine counties.
The real crime here appeared to be the group’s registration drive among Black voters in a state with the worst voter turnout in the country.
Considering that Indiana has a voter ID law requiring identification matching registration forms, it’s highly unlikely the ‘errors’ (broadcast nationwide and spoken of by Pence on the campaign trail) discovered by authorities were of much consequence when it came to actually ballots cast. There have been charges filed in the case.
There is, however, one very famous case of a conviction for voter fraud in Indiana. In 2012 the Republican Secretary of State was found guilty by a jury of perjury, false registration, and submitting a false ballot.
The Real Game
The actual goal for the administration in setting up this commission will be the nationalization of voter disenfranchisement being used by 30 odd states largely aimed at minority voters.
Reaction by voting rights advocates has been swift and strong.
From Common Dreams:
“Asking Cookie Monster to be your pastry chef is like asking Kris Kobach to head your voter fraud commission,” quipped Corey Stoughton, former senior counsel with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.
Kansas City Star columnist Barb Shelly made a similar comparison: “Appointing Kobach to voter fraud commission is like naming a firebug to an arson investigation panel,” she wrote on Twitter.
“Given Kobach’s past, will likely just be a voter suppression drive,” Brian Klaas, author and fellow at the London School of Economics’ Department of Government, added.
Timing is Everything
The announcement of Trump’s commission on voting comes after days of escalating criticism of the administration, following passage of the House GOP’s so-called Health Care Act and the firing of FBI director James Comey.
This “wink, wink” investigation clearly plays to what remains of the President’s hardcore supporters. It also speaks to the President’s personal insecurities, as Greg Sargent points out in the Washington Post:
The common thread here is the constant need to return to the meaning of the election. The Comey letter to Congress about Clinton’s newly discovered emails is widely believed to have helped Trump win; Comey tacitly conceded that this might be true. The Russia probe continues to feed the sense that a foreign power helped tip the election to him; Comey won’t make it disappear. And, of course, there are lingering questions around the fact that Trump fired Comey right after he asked for more resources to prosecute that investigation, which of course would only further feed the sense that the Russian intervention mattered to the outcome.
This has happened again and again, beginning literally on Day One of the Trump presidency. Trump was enraged by the media’s accurate reporting of his relatively small inaugural crowd size, which immediately broadcast with terrifying vividness that he lacked popular support. So administration officials had to scramble to find photographic “evidence” that he was right, while others attacked the media for allegedly obscuring the truth. Trump also falsely claimed based on conservative media that President Barack Obama wiretapped his phones, to suggest that he, too, had been targeted by illicit efforts to undermine him during the election. That forced the White House counsel to go hunting for “evidence” of this, and when that failed, the White House called on Congress to investigate it (i.e., pretend it was real).
Still more: In the face of his loss of the popular vote by nearly 3 million, Trump claimed that he would have won, if millions of people hadn’t voted illegally. This required top officials to go around promising a commission to investigate the phantom “voter fraud” problem — in other words, to prove Trump right. And now that commission is actually going to happen.
Looking for some action? Check out the Weekly Progressive Calendar, published every Friday in this space, featuring Demonstrations, Rallies, Teach-ins, Meet Ups and other opportunities to get your activism on.
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