The Obstruction of a Vital Election Integrity Commission

COMMENTARY Election Integrity

The Obstruction of a Vital Election Integrity Commission

Jan 11, 2018 3 min read

Commentary By

Hans A. von Spakovsky @HvonSpakovsky

Election Law Reform Initiative Manager, Senior Legal Fellow

J. Christian Adams @ElectionLawCtr

President and General Counsel, Public Interest Legal Foundation

President Trump makes remarks at the first meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity on July 19, 2017. Chris Kleponis - CNP/Newscom

President Trump dissolved his Advisory Commission on Election Integrity last week before it could complete its work.

As members of the commission, we were disappointed, but we understand why the president acted as he did.

The commission’s assignment was to examine the integrity and security of the American election process. It was similar to work done by several prior presidential commissions. This time, however, unprecedented obstruction from many state election officials and partisan “lawfare” made fulfilling our responsibilities virtually impossible.

Right off the bat, a third of the states flatly refused to give the commission the voter registration and voter history data we requested—even though it is supposed to be publicly available information. States routinely provide that same data to political parties, candidates, and other third parties.

There are only two possible explanations for their refusal: either they were part of the partisan “resist-Trump-at-any-costs movement,” or they were afraid of what we might find.

Additionally, a swarm of meritless lawsuits, filed by progressive groups, hobbled our ability to make progress on our assignment. Even one of our fellow commissioners joined in. Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap (a Democrat) rushed to federal court because he didn’t feel sufficiently included.

The litigation strategy was to force our staff to devote all their time to responding to frivolous lawsuits, thereby sabotaging the commission’s ability to function. At least eight suits were filed directly against the commission, with several more lodged against other federal and state agencies to block their cooperation with the commission.

A barrage of lawsuits doesn’t come cheap. The flood-the-zone legal offensive mounted by the commission’s foes shows that some extremely deep pockets want to keep the public from finding out the truth about voter fraud.

And the truth is not pretty. As Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in the Supreme Court’s 2008 majority opinion upholding Indiana’s voter ID law: “flagrant examples of such fraud…have been documented throughout this Nation’s history by respected historians and journalists… [and] demonstrate that not only is the risk of voter fraud real but that it could affect the outcome of a close election.”

We have many close elections in this country. Most recently, a Virginia legislative race ended in a tie with the winner determined by drawing lots.

Does voter fraud really exist? You bet. In only two years, the Heritage Foundation has chronicled 1,107 proven instances of fraud throughout the country. Many resulted in stolen votes; some produced stolen elections.

The Heritage database isn’t comprehensive. The think tank has neither the time nor the resources to do an exhaustive search. But it identifies the many different ways fraud has been committed in recent years, including altering vote counts, ballot petition fraud, false registrations, impersonation fraud, duplicate voting, voting by ineligible felons and noncitizens, fraudulent absentee ballots, buying votes, and illegal coercion at the polls.

Many news outlets have blatantly ignored this database while promoting the claims of the commission’s foes that voter fraud is non-existent.

Such claims are themselves fraudulent. At the commission hearing in September, a witness testified that his company did a comparison of voter records in 21 states. That represented only about 17 percent of all possible state-to-state comparisons. Yet even with that limited review, they identified almost 8,500 individuals who voted twice in the November 2016 election by being registered in more than one state.

The Public Interest Legal Foundation has found voter records showing thousands of noncitizens illegally registering and voting, including in Virginia, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

This evidence, as well as many widely recognized defects in the voter registration and election process, make it clear that the integrity of our elections is far from assured.

It’s a shame that the commission’s efforts to study and accurately define the problem were thwarted. Well-funded advocacy groups, activist academics, and other individuals who are not credible worked to undermine and sabotage the commission’s work. Those who opposed this civic effort have now forfeited their seat at the table.

The good news is that, although the commission has been disbanded, we and others dedicated to protecting our democratic system will continue our work to fix the vulnerabilities in our election process. Those who opposed the commission may delight in its dissolution, but before long they’ll see that advocates of election integrity have more stamina, perseverance, and the support of the people.

The public understands the importance of having a secure system that assures that everyone who is eligible can vote and their vote is not diluted or stolen by fraudulent votes or administrative errors and mistakes by election officials.

The commission may be dissolved, but the mandate from mainstream Americans to protect the integrity of our elections remains.

This piece originally appeared in The Washington Examiner