Donald Trump has picked fights with the judiciary, members of Congress, and the executive branch itself (Comey, Obama). In addition, he has waged all-out war on our free press. Having exhausted potential targets for his infamous and indecent Twump-ly trirades at the national level, he is now picking a fight with state-level election officials.
What started this spat (which is likely to develop into something bigger because of the stakes), is the letter sent to the 50 Secretaries of State by the co-chair of Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity (aka by some as the voter suppression commission), Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. (The full text of the letter follows the break.)
Nearly 1/3 of the states responded negatively for reasons developed below. In response, Trump says states are ‘trying to hide’ things from his voter fraud commission. But: Here’s what they actually say.
More than two dozen states have refused to fully comply with a sweeping and unprecedented White House request to turn over voter registration data, including sensitive information like partial Social Security numbers, party affiliation and military status.
Overall, the states that have said they will not be complying at all with the Kobach commission’s request represent over 30 percent of the nation’s population. That could complicate any efforts to build a truly national voter file, although it remains unclear what the commission’s ultimate goal is in collecting the data.
As it turns out, the bipartisan group of state officials withholding information from the commission have been very forthcoming about their reasons for not complying. …
Here are a couple of examples of the responses from Secretaries of State.
“I will not provide sensitive voter information to a commission that has already inaccurately passed judgment that millions of Californians voted illegally,” said California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, a Democrat.
“California’s participation would only serve to legitimize the false and already debunked claims of massive voter fraud made by the President, the Vice President, and Mr. Kobach,” he added. "[Kobach’s] role as vice chair is proof that the ultimate goal of the commission is to enact policies that will result in the disenfranchisement of American citizens.”
Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, another Democrat, struck a similar note.
“The president created his election commission based on the false notion that ‘voter fraud’ is a widespread issue — it is not,” Grimes said. “Kentucky will not aid a commission that is at best a waste of taxpayer money and at worst an attempt to legitimize voter suppression efforts across the country.”
In addition to the states’ responses, voter advocacy groups have been especially critical of the Trump/Kobach play. Snopes.com reports Growing Number of States Reject Voter Data Request From Trump’s Election Commission
Voter advocacy groups have also come out against the commission’s push for access to the data, which it said it wanted by 14 July 2017. League of Women Voters president Chris Carson said in a statement that her group would support any state that refused to comply with Kobach’s request:
There is no justification for this giant fishing expedition. The Commission itself is a distraction from the real issue of voter suppression, and that efforts to “investigate voter fraud” threaten our most fundamental voting rights. This most recent move by Mr. Kobach is an indicator that the so-called Election “Integrity” Commission is not interested in facts, but false accusations and dangerous policy recommendations.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law also condemned Kobach’s letters and called on his counterparts in other states to “discourage state and local officials” from participating in the commission’s activities:
This meritless inquisition opens the door for a misguided and ill-advised Commission to take steps to target and harass voters and could lead to purging of the voter rolls.
[From the Washington Post report:] “We’re concerned about unlawful voter purging, which has been something that Kris Kobach has been leading the charge,” said Vanita Gupta of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and former head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, in an interview Friday.
Part of the problem here is that few people trust Kris Kobach and Trump’s war against the states does not endear him to the state election officials.
[Snopes:] Kobach has not elaborated on how information collected by the commission would be kept safe.
Before joining Trump’s administration, Kobach worked as an attorney for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a hardline anti-immigration group. In September 2016, a federal appeals court found that Kobach had provided “precious little” evidence that non-U.S. citizens were engaging in voter fraud.
[Post:]Gupta and others argue that Kobach doesn’t exactly have a reputation for being honest about his work on voter fraud. Just a week ago, a federal judge fined Kobach $1,000 for “presenting misleading arguments in a voting-related lawsuit.”
To learn more about the man who Trump made co-chair of this bogus commission, see Ari Berman’s report on The Man Behind Trump’s Voter-Fraud Obsession. How Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, plans to remake America through restrictive voting and immigration laws.
Here is one reason, among dozens listed by Berman, why Kobach is an existential threat to our republic and deserves both respect and fear.
On June 8, Kobach announced his candidacy in the 2018 Kansas gubernatorial race, telling a room full of supporters in the Kansas City suburb of Lenexa that he had “the honor of personally advising President Trump, both before the election and after the election, on how to reduce illegal immigration. And is he doing a good job?” The crowd cheered. If Kobach wins, he could be positioned to run for president as the legal mind who can deliver the promise of Trumpism without the baggage of Trump himself.
Paul Waldman (Washington Post/Plum Line) sums it up in Why we should be very afraid of Trump’s vote suppression commission.
Let’s be clear: The sole purpose of this commission on “election integrity” is to suppress votes and give the GOP a structural advantage in every election. It’s being led by Kris Kobach, whose twin missions in life are to scale back immigration and to make voting more difficult. Other commission members include Ken Blackwell, a far-right activist who as secretary of state of Ohio in 2004 (while he was simultaneously serving as state co-chair of the George W. Bush campaign) tried to disenfranchise people whose registration forms were submitted on insufficiently heavy paper stock. The administration just added Hans von Spakovsky, who before Kobach emerged was known as the country’s most prominent advocate of vote suppression.
These people are not trying to determine whether there are problems with our voting system and find the best solutions to those problems. They have come together to promote the myth of voter fraud and enable vote suppression in order to advantage the Republican Party. No one should be fooled into thinking this enterprise is anything other than that.
If Kobach were successful in obtaining full names, addresses, dates of birth, and last four digits of social security numbers, and then putting all that in the public domain, as he said he would do, he would be inviting identity theft on a national scale. Every Secretary of State should join the resist movement.
Correction to yesterday’s post: Kris Kobach is the Kansas Secretary of State, not the Attorney General. His first name is Kris, not Chris.
The full text an example letter follows - it is the one sent to Maine. Emphases are mine.
——————— START LETTER ——————
I serve as the Vice Chair for the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity (“Commission”), which was formed pursuant to Executive Order 13799 of May 11, 2017. The Commission is charged with studying the registration and voting processes used in federal elections and submitting a report to the President of the United States that identifies laws, rules, policies, activities, strategies, and practices that enhance or undermine the American people’s confidence in the integrity of federal elections processes.
As the Commission begins it work, I invite you to contribute your views and recommendations throughout this process. In particular:
- What changes, if any, to federal election laws would you recommend to enhance the integrity of federal elections?
- How can the Commission support state and local election administrators with regard to information technology security and vulnerabilities?
- What laws, policies, or other issues hinder your ability to ensure the integrity of elections you administer?
- What evidence or information do you have regarding instances of voter fraud or registration fraud in your state?
- What convictions for election-related crimes have occurred in your state since the November 2000 federal election?
- What recommendations do you have for preventing voter intimidation or disenfranchisement?
- What other issues do you believe the Commission should consider?
In addition, in order for the Commission to fully analyze vulnerabilities and issues related to voter registration and voting, I am requesting that you provide to the Commission the publicly- available voter roll data for Maine, including, if publicly available under the laws of your state, the full first and last names of all registrants, middle names or initials if available, addresses, dates of birth, political party (if recorded in your state), last four digits of social security number if available, voter history (elections voted in) from 2006 onward, active/inactive status, cancelled status, information regarding any felony convictions, information regarding voter registration in another state, information regarding military status, and overseas citizen information.
You may submit your responses electronically to ElectionIntegrityStaff@ovp.eop.gov or by utilizing the Safe Access File Exchange (“SAFE”), which is a secure FTP site the federal government uses for transferring large data files. You can access the SAFE site at https://safe.amrdec.army.mil/safe/Welcome.aspx. We would appreciate a response by July 14, 2017. Please be aware that any documents that are submitted to the full Commission will also be made available to the public. If you have any questions, please contact Commission staff at the same email address.
On behalf of my fellow commissioners, I also want to acknowledge your important leadership role in administering the elections within your state and the importance of state-level authority in our federalist system. It is crucial for the Commission to consider your input as it collects data and identifies areas of opportunity to increase the integrity of our election systems.
I look forward to hearing from you and working with you in the months ahead.
Kris W. Kobach
Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity
——————- END LETTER —————-