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Saturday, July 01, 2017


"Go jump in the Gulf of Mexico"

by Tom Sullivan

Photo by Woodlot via Creative Commons.

Every now and then federalism gives states the opportunity to do something more productive than denying citizens Medicaid expansion. This week, state officials across the country told President Donald Trump's voter fraud czar to take a flying leap.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has established a reputation as the Erich von Däniken of voter fraud. Kobach believes evidence of voter fraud is as widespread as von Däniken's alien visitations. Chad Lawhorn of the Lawrence Journal-World writes, "[W]hen the subject is illegal voting, Kobach normally becomes like a 'Game of Thrones' fan at a cocktail party. You need an actual wizard to get out of that conversation." The Kansas City Star describes Kobach as a fraud himself.

Kobach's mission as vice chairman of Trump's Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity is to locate the three million voters Trump alleges cast illegal ballots last fall to deny him the popular vote. Kobach could start (and finish) looking for them by putting Trump's head in a magnetic resonance scanner. Instead he sent letters this week to all 50 states requesting detailed voter records:

The letter, signed by commission vice chairman and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), asked for names, addresses, birth dates and party affiliations of registered voters in each state. It also sought felony convictions, military statuses, the last four digits of Social Security numbers and voting records dating back to 2006, according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Hill.
The Department of Justice letter informed states “we are reviewing voter registration list maintenance procedures in each state covered by the NVRA [National Voter Registration Act].” Voting rights watchdog, Ari Berman, writes at The Nation:
While this might sound banal, it’s a clear instruction to states from the federal government to start purging the voting rolls. “Let’s be clear what this letter signals: DOJ Civil Rights is preparing to sue states to force them to trim their voting rolls,” tweeted Sam Bagenstos, the former deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights in the Obama administration. There’s a very long and recent history of Republican-controlled states’ purging their voting rolls in inaccurate and discriminatory ways—for example, Florida’s disastrous purge of alleged ex-felons in 2000 could have cost Al Gore the election—and it’s especially serious when the Department of Justice forces them to do it.
"If the Obama administration had asked for this, Kris Kobach would be holding a press conference outside the Capitol to denounce it,” Jason Kander who runs the nonprofit Let America Vote told the Washington Post. Kander is a former Missouri secretary of state. The response from current secretaries of state has been unenthusiastic as well.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla issued a statement essentially telling Kobach where he could put his request:
“The President's commission has requested the personal data and the voting history of every American voter–including Californians. As Secretary of State, it is my duty to ensure the integrity of our elections and to protect the voting rights and privacy of our state's voters. I will not provide sensitive voter information to a commission that has already inaccurately passed judgment that millions of Californians voted illegally. 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. The President's Commission is a waste of taxpayer money and a distraction from the real threats to the integrity of our elections today: aging voting systems and documented Russian interference in our elections."
At least 24 states are pushing back, according to The Hill report, including Vice President Mike Pence's home state of Indiana. Secretary of State Connie Lawson (R) is president of the National Association of Secretaries of State and on the Kobach commission herself. Lawson said in a statement, “Indiana law doesn’t permit the Secretary of State to provide the personal information requested by Secretary Kobach.” He'll get name, address, and congressional district, information publicly available.

“They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi is a great State to launch from,” Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, another Republican, told the commission in his statement. “Mississippi residents should celebrate Independence Day and our state’s right to protect the privacy of our citizens by conducting our own electoral processes.”

From CNN:

"I have no intention of honoring this request," Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, said in a statement. "Virginia conducts fair, honest, and democratic elections, and there is no evidence of significant voter fraud in Virginia. This entire commission is based on the specious and false notion that there was widespread voter fraud last November. At best this commission was set up as a pretext to validate Donald Trump's alternative election facts, and at worst is a tool to commit large-scale voter suppression."
McAuliffe's suspicions likely come from Kobach's championing his multistate Crosscheck database for sniffing out double registrants and double voting. Kobach wants to use a similar process along with a federal database of legal immigrants to find Trump's illegal voters. “Crosscheck on steroids,” says Dale Ho, director of the ACLU's Voting Rights Project:
Researchers have found that Crosscheck's matching algorithms are highly inaccurate. A recent working paper by researchers at Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard and Microsoft found that Crosscheck's algorithm returns about 200 false positives for every one legitimate instance of double registration it finds.

“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.

“It's a real concern that he's building a nationwide database of voters,” Gupta added. “The question is: How does this data get used?”

An expansion of the Crosscheck system would be “a recipe for massive amounts of error,” according to elections expert Justin Levitt of Loyola Law School. “When you've got hundreds of millions of records, and thousands of John Smiths, trying to figure out which of them are your John Smith without making a mistake is well nigh impossible.”
The Washington Post report continues:
“This is an attempt on a grand scale to purport to match voter rolls with other information in an apparent effort to try and show that the voter rolls are inaccurate and use that as a pretext to pass legislation that will make it harder for people to register to vote,” said Rick Hasen, an election-law expert at the University of California at Irvine.
If critics needed another reason to doubt, Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation is also on the commission. If Kobach is the Erich von Däniken of voter fraud, Spakovsky is Harold Hill, traveling voter ID salesman. He can deal with this trouble, friends, with a wave of his very hand. Berman writes, "When von Spakovsky was nominated to the FEC, six former lawyers in the voting section called him “the point person for undermining the Civil Rights Division’s mandate to protect voting rights.”

Let's hope the two confidence men inspire all they are due.