Newly released information illustrates how the Voter Fraud Commission, a federal panel created by President Trump, promoted the false claim that illegal voting significantly affects the outcome of U.S. elections.
The commission disbanded in January. This week, thousands of documents revealing the group's devious efforts surfaced. The American Oversight organization, along with Maine Secretary of State and former commission member Matthew Dunlap, filed a lawsuit to obtain the records.
Dunlap, a Democrat, told The Huffington Post that Republican commissioners “wanted to talk about voter fraud and they didn’t want people to know what it was they were actually working on.”
Dunlap said the commission was “was intellectually dishonest from the standpoint that I don’t think they really cared what the data said.” He explained: “If they saw data that agreed with them, that was unimpeachable. If there was data that they didn’t agree with, then they put it aside and ignored it. … I think they’re more or less starting with a result, then trying to backfill it with things that would support that thesis.”
Included in the released documents was a message from former Republican commission member Kris Kobach. He made it clear that he was not concerned about his party's attempts to disenfranchise low-income people and minorities, who tend to vote for Democrats. In an email to the White House, he wrote: “Voter intimidation … is a secondary or tertiary concern of the commission.”
In September 2017, Trump told Kobach about supposed cases of voter fraud in New Hampshire. The president said residents of other states had been allowed to take part in the state's general election the previous year. He pointed out that 6,540 people used out-of-state driver's licenses to register to vote on Election Day, and that most of them had still not gotten New Hampshire licenses nearly a year later.
Kobach seized on the president's statements to write an op-ed for the far-right Breitbart News, proclaiming he had “proof” that illegal voting may have changed the results of the state's election. Democrats on the commission noted that college students, military personnel, and other temporary New Hampshire residents were among those lacking state driver's licenses who voted.
Kobach also touted a discredited study which estimated that nationwide, 5.7 million voters cast ballots illegally in the 2016 presidential race. He suggested that the man who conducted the study, James Agresti, should appear before the commission. Experts determined that the analysis was based on faulty information, but that did not stop Kobach from continuing to maintain that voter fraud was rampant.
“Maybe the strategy is just to create so much uncertainty because it’s harder to have to prove that something didn’t happen than it is to prove it did happen,” said Lorraine Minnite, a Rutgers University professor who wrote the book “The Myth of Voter Fraud.”
Kobach was not the only Republican commissioner who did not want to address actual scandals concerning U.S. elections. J. Christian Adams, before he was named to the panel, ridiculously declared in a letter to the administration that “there is no such thing as 'voter suppression.'”
Adams wrote that “the foes of the commission … have adopted the term 'voter suppression' to characterize a wide range of procedures and laws with which they disagree ― both constitutional and unconstitutional.” He mentioned voter-identification requirements and laws banning ex-felons from voting as examples.
Despite promises by Trump and Vice President Mike Pence that the commission would be “bipartisan,” the group was clearly biased. Republican commissioner Christy McCormick once recommended that the government hire a Justice Department statistician to serve as an adviser to the panel because he was “conservative and a Christian, too.”
Kobach, the secretary of state and chief elections officer in Kansas, was a candidate in the state's Republican primary election for governor on Tuesday. At last report, the outcome was still too close to call. Kobach, who initially refused to recuse himself from the group of state officials recounting the vote, later told CNN that he would not take part in the review.
As of Friday, Kobach had a .04 percent lead over incumbent Gov. Jeff Colyer. Inaccurate vote counting reportedly was causing confusion in several counties, as officials began examining 10,000 provisional and absentee ballots.
“It's certainly possible that the result of the race could change,” Kobach acknowledged during a news conference on Thursday. He cited “keystroke errors” as one of the reasons for the incorrect counting.
Kobach did not withdraw himself from the recount until after his opponent demanded that he do so. Colyer accused him of ordering county election workers to discard ballots that lacked postmarks or were difficult to read.
“The counties do the counting of ballots, so there’s really no point to it, but I said if my opponent wishes me to (recuse), I’d be happy to,” Kobach said on CNN. “It’s purely symbolic. I don’t think (Colyer) understands the process.”