January 22, 2018
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Trump voter fraud panel is a farce, and its findings should be ignored

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
A federal judge has ordered that Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap have full access to documents from the President's Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. Dunlap serves on the commission.

A panel investigating supposed voter fraud in the 2016 election is so dysfunctional that a judge ordered it to share information with all of its members, including Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap.

Dunlap sued the commission in November after it became clear that he was being shut out of much of its work. Late last month, a federal judge ruled that, yes indeed, the President’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity needs to share its work with all its members.

This court’s ruling is so basic that it should not have been necessary. “[Dunlap] has a right, as a commissioner, to ‘fully participate’ in the proceedings of the Commission,” D.C. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly wrote in her Dec. 22 decision.

“Here, the Court finds that in the absence of being provided with past and future documents … [Dunlap’s] right to fully participate in the Commission would be irreparably harmed,” the order concluded.

The commission hasn’t turned over any documents to Dunlap, one of four Democrats on the 11-member commission. It hasn’t met since September, but it is expected to issue a report early this year.

This farce so taints the commission and any report it may issue that is should be disregarded as the sham it is.

It has long been apparent that some on the commission are building a case for tighter voting restrictions based on materials they are not willing to share with commission members, like Dunlap, who don’t share their political motivations.

Before the commission began its work, President Donald Trump claimed that millions of illegal votes were cast in the 2016 election. This is an absurd claim that should be dismissed, not used as a pretense to kick voters, many of them poor and minorities, off voter rolls.

The group’s chairman, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, has long made claims of voter fraud and sought to tighten voting laws in Kansas. Just before the commission’s last meeting, in New Hampshire, Kobach, claimed that Democrats stole a U.S. Senate race and presidential Electoral College votes in that state.

Writing for the rabidly right-wing website Breitbart, Kobach said he had “proof” of voter fraud in New Hampshire: 6,540 people registered to vote and cast ballots voted on Nov. 8, 2016, in that state. By Aug. 30, 2017, only 1,014 of those voters had been issued driver’s licenses in the Granite State and only about 200 had registered vehicles there. By Kobach’s calculation that left 5,526 people who voted illegally in New Hampshire in November.

Except — and this a big except — there are thousands of college students living in New Hampshire, many of them from out of state. It was completely legal for them to vote in New Hampshire while carrying a driver’s license from another state.

If this sounds familiar, it is because Republican officials have repeatedly made similar claims in Maine.

Last week, Republican Roy Moore, who refuses to acknowledge that he lost last month’s U.S. Senate election in Alabama, filed a lawsuit to stop the state from certifying the victory of Democrat Doug Jones. He cited voter fraud, including busloads of African-Americans showing up at polling places. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, a Republican who backed Moore, said allegations of fraud have been investigated and no fraud has been found.

Jason Leavitt, a Loyola Law School professor, did a comprehensive analysis of voter fraud allegations between 2000 and 2014 and found 31 instances nationwide with credible evidence of potential fraud that may have been addressed through voter ID laws and another 13 cases of potential voter impersonation that such laws would not have stopped. That’s out of more than 1 billion ballots cast.

“[B]y any measure, voter fraud is extraordinarily rare,” Leavitt wrote in a 2007 report for the Brennan Center for Justice. Most instances of alleged voter fraud are instead clerical errors made by election officials.

This hasn’t dissuaded Trump’s commission from its hunt for voter fraud, even if it has to sideline critics like Dunlap. We don’t expect Trump to stop the commission’s work, which is the responsible thing to do, but any report it produces should be ignored

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