It was a simple request—hardly one to stir up controversy.
Kris Kobach, Kansas secretary of state and vice chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, recently sent letters to his fellow secretaries of state requesting “publicly-available voter roll data” and soliciting feedback on ways to secure America’s electoral system against fraud.
Yet the response has been as swift as it is absurd. Liberal activist groups, many media outlets, and politicians—predominantly left-leaning ones—assailed the commission for somehow invading the privacy of American voters.
Some went even further. Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh tweeted that the request was “repugnant.” Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe labeled the commission a “tool to commit large-scale voter suppression.” California Secretary of State Alex Padilla called it a “waste of taxpayer money.”
All three indicated their states will provide no information to the commission. They apparently believe that their voter registration rolls are 100 percent accurate.
If voter fraud were as rare as the left contends, and if adequate procedures are in place to prevent it from occurring, you would think those who make this argument would be anxious to provide the data that would serve to verify their assertions.
Could it be that they fear the data would refute their claims?
Indeed, the evidence points to a different conclusion: Voter fraud is not only real, it is a serious and ongoing threat to the integrity of the electoral process.
Voter registration rolls in some states are in sad shape. They are filled with large numbers of individuals who are ineligible to vote because they are dead, have moved away and registered in a different state, or are not U.S. citizens.
Such inaccuracies can be exploited by fraudsters who would rather cheat to achieve their political objectives, knowing that many states have lax procedures that make it extremely likely that they can commit voter fraud and get away with it.
This is not just a crime against our electoral system, but against American citizens. Every fraudulent ballot that is cast negates the vote of a legitimate voter, effectively disenfranchising that voter.
The U.S. Supreme Court has cited “flagrant examples” of voter fraud in American history to justify its conclusion that “the risk of voter fraud [is] real [and] that it could affect the outcome of a close election.”
The Heritage Foundation’s Voter Fraud Database has thus far tallied 848 documented criminal convictions in voter fraud cases spanning 47 states, with new cases being uncovered every week.
In May, the Public Interest Legal Foundation published a startling report on widespread noncitizen voting in Virginia.
The report not only revealed that thousands of ineligible aliens registered and voted in the state’s elections, it also detailed the considerable efforts that state officials undertook to try to block the Public Interest Legal Foundation from obtaining the publicly available voter records the organization needed to complete its investigation.
Once more, Virginia appears to be stonewalling by refusing to comply with the presidential commission’s request, and other states appear to be following suit (although early reports of the precise number of noncomplying states appear to have been exaggerated).
This is disappointing and somewhat surprising, given that federal law requires states to maintain, and make available to the public, the very voter records the commission seeks.
According to a provision in Section 20507 of Title 52, part of the National Voter Registration Act (52 U.S.C. § 20507(i)):
Each state shall maintain for at least two years and shall make available for public inspection and, where available, photocopying at a reasonable cost, all records concerning the implementation of programs and activities conducted for the purpose of ensuring the accuracy and currency of official lists of eligible voters …
Federal law (52 U.S.C. §§ 20701 & 20703) also mandates that election officers must “retain and preserve, for a period of 22 months from the date of any general, special, or primary election” for a federal office all records pertaining to “any application” or “registration” to vote.
The law requires that these records be made available “upon demand in writing by the attorney general … for inspection, reproduction, and copying.”
Many state laws also make this very same voter information available to the public.
California is a perfect example of this. Even though California is refusing to provide the requested information, its state election code makes voter registration records, including “home address, telephone number, email Address, [and] precinct number” available to “any voter … to any candidate for federal, state, or local office, to any committee for or against any initiative or referendum … and to any person for election, scholarly, journalistic, or political purposes, or for governmental purposes … ”
For those concerned that the commission is seeking voter information states would not otherwise make available, the commission’s letter makes it explicitly clear that it is seeking only information that is “publicly available under the laws of your state,” and nothing more.
In addition to the fact that the commission has only requested publicly available information, those states that are citing the need to protect the privacy of voters as the reason for their noncompliance are being somewhat disingenuous.
After all, voter registration information is routinely purchased and used by political parties and candidates for public office, as well as private companies who use such data for commercial purposes.
Many of the politicians who are expressing outrage at the commission’s request obviously did not have any qualms about obtaining and using such data themselves to further their own political ambitions.
The commission’s request for public voter records is designed to serve one purpose: to allow the comparison of voter records across the states, and with federal databases, such as Social Security Administration’s death records and the Department of Homeland Security’s noncitizen records.
This will help to determine whether state voter rolls are accurate and reliable—an extremely important undertaking given the significant evidence that has emerged suggesting that voter registration records are riddled with errors and duplicate entries.
In 2012, for example, a Pew study concluded that roughly “24 million—one of every eight—voter registrations in the United States are no longer valid or are significantly inaccurate.”
The study estimated that 2.75 million people are registered in multiple states, and 1.8 million deceased voters remain on voter rolls.
Five years later, there is little reason to believe that the problem has corrected itself.
The commission now has an opportunity to update the Pew findings and, if the problem remains, to develop policies and recommendations to facilitate state and federal action to clean up the voter rolls and help secure the integrity of American elections.
Some liberal activists are attacking the commission’s credibility before it even gets started, claiming its purpose is to engage in “voter suppression” and “discrimination.”
Perhaps they can explain how determining the accuracy of voter registration rolls, investigating the numbers of individuals who are illegally voting in multiple states, and identifying noncitizens and others who are ineligible to vote but nonetheless registered constitutes acts of “vote suppression.”
In that regard, it is worth noting that the letter from the commission also requests any information that states have on intimidation of voters or other efforts to prevent eligible Americans from voting.
Rather than helping to investigate and remedy the problems we have in our systems, opponents would rather stick their heads in the sand and pretend there are no problems.
They would also like to tarnish the commission’s reputation with the public in hopes that it will be easier to dismiss its findings later on.
That tells us all we need to know about their motivations. Politics before integrity.
Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once stated that sunlight is the “best of disinfectants.” When it comes to America’s electoral system, truer words have never been said.
This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal