Good news, bad news for voting rights

While the media fixates on a gossipy insider book on the Trump White House, there is some good news that you may have missed.

The Secretaries of State of numerous states refused to cooperate with Donald Trump’s fraudulent voter fraud commission headed by the GOP’s voter suppression specialist, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, and several lawsuits were filed, including by members of the commission.

This was all too much for our Dear Leader who gave up and pulled the plug on his fraudulent voter fraud commission. Trump abolishes controversial commission studying alleged voter fraud:

President Trump announced Wednesday that he is disbanding a controversial [and fraudulent] panel studying alleged voter fraud that became mired in multiple federal lawsuits and faced resistance from states that accused it of overreach.

The decision is a major setback for Trump, who created the commission last year in response to his claim, for which he provided no proof, that he lost the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 because of millions of illegally cast ballots.

The commission met only twice amid the series of lawsuits seeking to curb its authority and claims by Democrats that it was stacked to recommend voting restrictions favorable to the president’s party.

In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said there is “substantial evidence of voter fraud” and blamed the ending of the commission on the refusal of many states to provide voter data sought by the panel and the cost of ongoing lawsuits.

This slack-jawed hillbilly from Arkansas is, as always, full of shit. And score one for the Resistance.

The bipartisan panel, known as the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, had been nominally chaired by Vice President Pence and led by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican who has aggressively sought to prosecute alleged voter fraud in his state. Pence in recent months had sought to distance himself from its work.

In the statement, Sanders said Trump had signed an executive order asking the Department of Homeland Security “to review its initial findings and determine next courses of action.”

I’m sorry, the Department of Homeland Security is going to take up the work of this fraudulent voter fraud commission?

Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap (D), a member of the commission, warned that “it may be premature to celebrate the demise of the commission, given Trump’s announcement that Homeland Security would pick up the work. The department, he said, could angle to change regulations affecting voter identification and other matters affecting voting without as much public scrutiny.” “I think people who are saying ‘the witch is dead’ should be very alarmed by this move,” he said. “I think that’s very dangerous.”

Critics of the commission hailed Trump’s announcement, calling it long overdue.

“The commission never had anything to do with election integrity,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. “It was instead a front to suppress the vote, perpetrate dangerous and baseless claims, and was ridiculed from one end of the country to the other. This shows that ill-founded proposals that just appeal to a narrow group of people won’t work, and we hope they’ll learn this lesson elsewhere.”

Former Missouri secretary of state Jason Kander (D) also wished the panel “good riddance.”

“President Trump created his sham voting commission to substantiate a lie he told about voter fraud in the 2016 election,” said Kander, president of the advocacy group Let America Vote. “When he couldn’t come up with any fake evidence, and under relentless pressure, he had no choice but to disband his un-American commission.”

* * *

“This commission started as a tragedy and ended as a farce,” said Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice, a fierce critic of the panel. “It was a colossal waste of taxpayer money from the very beginning.”

Vanita Gupta, the former head of the civil rights division of the Justice Department during the Obama administration, said that “the abrupt abandonment of the commission makes clear that it had become a thoroughly discredited body that could not find evidence of mass voter fraud.”

“The commission itself was unable to justify its existence as a result,” said Gupta, who is now president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

Paul Waldman of the Washington Post raises this additional warning: Trump’s voter fraud commission is dead. But the GOP voter suppression effort is just getting started.

President Trump has shut down the commission he had appointed to examine voter fraud, which is good news, since its true purpose was to spread misinformation and justify further Republican vote suppression efforts.

But don’t think for a moment that the GOP is done trying to make it harder for people to vote, particularly people who might be likely to vote for Democrats. That effort is still going strong, and it’ll be looking for new ways to use the power of the federal government to advance it.

Trump’s commission was led by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who not only is the country’s most prominent advocate of vote suppression, but also is an anti-immigration activist, which is an important part of this story. The White House issued a statement saying the president “has asked the Department of Homeland Security to review [the commission’s] initial findings and determine next courses of action.”

To which you might respond, “The Department of Homeland Security? What does it have to do with this?” It’s a good question.

Now let me point you to something Kobach told Politico:

The Kansas official said he expects officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and political appointees overseeing that agency to take over the commission’s work and begin efforts to match state voter rolls to federal databases of noncitizens.

What’s going on here? I got an answer to that question from Myrna Pérez, who runs the Voting Rights and Elections project at the Brennan Center for Justice.

“The big story,” she told me,”is that purges are very likely to be the next big method of voter suppression.”

You’ve probably heard a good deal about voter ID lawsNearly half the states have passed voter ID restrictions just since 2010, and there are numerous lawsuits challenging them that are working their way toward the Supreme Court. But Republicans all over the country — led by Kobach — are also using the purging of voter rolls as a method of preventing thousands upon thousands of legitimate voters from being able to access the ballot.

Indiana passed a law last year allowing officials to purge voters based on dubious database matches (more on that in a moment); it’s now the subject of a lawsuit. Georgia has purged hundreds of thousands of names from its rolls and sent threatening letters to people who moved within their counties without updating their registration. Next week the Supreme Court will hear a lawsuit against Ohio, which purged 1.2 million voters on the grounds that they hadn’t voted frequently enough.

Those efforts are being supported by a network of conservative organizations that try to force local jurisdictions to purge their rolls, and they’re getting help from the federal government. In June last year, the Department of Justice sent a letter to 44 states demanding information on their processes for purging voters — and it wasn’t because they were worried too many legitimate voters were being purged. To voting rights activists, this seemed a like a prelude to the DOJ filing suit to force states to undertake purges of their rolls. That’s at a time when DOJ has reversed its previous position and now supports draconian voter ID laws.

Where is the Trump administration heading now that the voter suppression commission is gone? We can get an idea from a system called Crosscheck that Kobach has promoted to states all over the country. That system flags anyone who has the same name and date of birth but is registered in more than one place as a possible instance of fraud.

You can immediately see the problem: There are going to be a huge number of people who share the same name and birthday, so people will get wrongly flagged constantly. Indeed, one analysis of the program found that Crosscheck risks eliminating huge numbers of registrations used to cast legitimate votes. Kobach sees the program as a model for what he wants to do nationally.

That brings us to the Department of Homeland Security. I need to stress that nobody knows exactly what they’ll be doing on this issue, because all we have are the somewhat vague statements from Kobach and the White House. But they have lists of immigrants and people visiting the country (like this one), and those databases are almost certainly what Kobach is after.

Here’s how it might work, according to the worrying scenario envisioned by Pérez and other voting rights advocates. The government could take voter registration lists, then crosscheck them against the DHS list, flag any “matches,” and mark those people to potentially be purged from the rolls. So, for instance, let’s say you’re an American-born citizen named Maria Gonzales and you were born on Aug. 5, 1988. But there’s a Maria Gonzales born on Aug. 5, 1988, on the DHS list, because she’s a Costa Rican national who’s here on a student visa to attend graduate school. You might well find yourself tossed off the voting rolls because the system has flagged you as being ineligible to vote.

Not only that, there’s a danger that this system could be misused in both directions. The grad student Maria Gonzales could find ICE agents knocking on her door because she’s been flagged as having illegally registered to vote, even though she didn’t. DHS has an important role to play in preventing foreign infiltration of our voting system; they’ve declared the voting system to be “critical infrastructure” and work with states and localities to keep their systems safe from hacking. But as Pérez told me, we need to ensure that such efforts don’t “somehow bleed into and justify witch hunts against Americans or folks living [in the U.S.] for supposed voter fraud.”

How about focusing on an actual Russian cyber war attack on America’s election system? It is going to happen again.

As I said, we don’t yet know how this is going to work or exactly what DHS is going to be asked by the White House to do. But given how comprehensive Republican voter suppression efforts have been, we can assume their bad faith with almost complete certainty. If Americans are going to be able to exercise their right to vote, we’re going to have to watch them very carefully.

5 responses to “Good news, bad news for voting rights

  1. All those millions spent did yield results. Kobach is charging two with voting in multiple states.

    “Wednesday’s disbanding of his federal commission on voter fraud won’t stop Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) from pursuing the issue with zeal.

    Kobach, an ardent advocate for restrictive voting laws, on Thursday filed criminal charges against two people he alleges cast illegal votes in the 2016 election, according to a report from the Kansas City Star. Kobach is the only secretary of state in the country who has prosecutorial power, thanks to a 2015 bill he championed.

    Kobach’s office charged Que J. Fulmer with two counts of voting without being qualified, one count of voting repeatedly, and another of “advance voting unlawful acts” for allegedly voting in Colorado as well as Kansas’ Hamilton County, according to the newspaper.

    Bailey Ann McCaughey faces the same charge of voting more than once for allegedly casting ballots in both Colorado and Finney County, Kansas, as well as one count of election perjury, the Star reported.”

    https://tinyurl.com/yb6xqanr

    How fiscally responsible of Mr. Kobach.

    • For Sure Not Tom

      Steve Bannon, Sean Spicer, Steven Mnuchin, Tiffany Trump, and Jerod Kushner were all registered in two states for the 2016 election.

      From Twitter:

      “I will be asking for a major investigation into VOTER FRAUD, including those registered to vote in two states, those who are illegal and….

      — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 25, 2017”

      Lock them up!

      Chris Kobach has been described as American’s Premier Racist. The entire voter fraud scam was to keep people of color from voting. Kobach was using Trump’s tiny fragile ego to make it happen.

      I really hate these people.

      • I’ve heard it said that the vast majority of voter fraud infractions are committed by Republicans to prove voter fraud exists.

  2. For Sure Not Tom