'Fraud commission' is nothing more than voter suppression

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Yesterday, New Hampshire, which has seen more than its share of hucksters over the years, welcomed another carnival barker.

Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State and the vice-chairman of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, was in Concord to take comments on voter fraud — or the lack thereof — in the Granite State. Prior to his arrival, Kobach wrote on Breitbart (where he is a paid contributor) that "facts have come to light that indicate that a pivotal, close election was likely changed through voter fraud ..."

Kobach was responding to data that showed 5,313 people who registered to vote on Election Day in 2016 with out-of-state licenses had not applied for new licenses by Aug. 31 of this year. An analysis of the data has concluded the votes were most likely cast by college students domiciled in New Hampshire but carrying different licenses. "There is a legitimate argument to be made that if you are going to live here, you ought to register your car here, and pay taxes here and get a driver's license here," Fergus Cullen, a former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party in 2007-2008, told Fact Check. "But those are questions of state law. That's different than the massive fraud claims of this sham commission."

During the meeting, Maine's Secretary of State, Matthew Dunlap, also pushed back against Kobach's voter fraud accusations. "There's utterly no connectivity between motor vehicle law and election law," he said. "Making this equation that somehow people not updating their driver's license is an indicator of voter fraud would be almost as absurd as saying if you have cash in your wallet, then that's proof that you robbed a bank."

The commission's credibility took another hit when it accepted testimony from Ken Block, the president of Simpatico Software Systems, who claimed he was "able to identify with high confidence, several examples of voter fraud" and that "no government agency is looking for voter fraud." Block's study was backed by the Steve Bannon-founded Government Accountability Institute, which is chaired by influential GOP donor Rebekah Mercer. Google that name when you have five minutes. And then the commission took testimony from John Lott, a gun rights advocate, the founder of the Crime Prevention Research Center, and the author of dubious — and largely debunked — studies that concluded more guns leads to more safety. Lott said the commission should consider subjecting Americans to background checks before they cast ballots.

"During his bizarre statement he falsely claimed that separate laws governing voting and gun ownership were similar, saying 'it's the same things that disqualify you from owning a gun that disqualify you from voting,'" noted Eric Lutz, writing for Mic.

Further damaging the commission's credibility is a newly released email, in which the conservative Heritage Foundation wrote to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, advising that the voter fraud commission should exclude Democrats and mainstream Republicans. "There isn't a single Democratic official that will do anything other than obstruct any investigation of voter fraud and issue constant public announcements criticizing the commission and what it is doing, making claims that it is engaged in voter suppression," the Heritage Foundation wrote in the email.

But perhaps the strongest argument against the legitimacy of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, wrote The Atlantic's Vann R. Newkirk II, is the tendency for Trump and Kobach and other fraud inquisitors to make false, unverified, or disputed claims of fraudulent voting, then using those claims as evidence that anti-voter-fraud efforts are necessary, and when claims are debunked, citing that as a demonstration of the need to pursue the subject more thoroughly.

"They have invoked unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud in order to argue for the necessity of a commission to prove that voter fraud exists. And that commission so far — while ostensibly still waiting to analyze numbers from a controversial set of voter data gathered from the states — has simultaneously argued in favor of measures to fight voter fraud, like voter ID, while also arguing that policies to do so won't suppress votes."

But we all know what this is really about — the very real fear on the part of the right that Americans, when they vote, cast ballots in favor of candidates who support progressive policies. The only way the right can swing elections their way is through draconian voter ID laws, limiting the number of polling stations and machines in areas where voters support progressive policies and gerrymandering.

Instead of searching for non-existent fraud, noted Newkirk, any presidential commission should be focused on "improving turnout, modernizing registrations and voter rolls, improving elections technology, increasing cross-state communication, reducing administrative problems, and pursuing discrepancies and instances of illegal elections actions that are prevalent and well known."

This nation needs the involvement of more of its citizens. We urge our readers to advocate for policies and procedures that encourage more people to vote, not less.

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