In the midst of ‘Fire And Fury’ and the political upheaval it has created, it is easy to have missed the bad news that the White House has tried to bury. While Trump deals with his wounded ego, his commission to investigate the so-called ‘voter fraud’ in the 2016 presidential campaign has been discontinued. The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity has been shut down after eight months that saw Kris Kobach, and in effect Trump, meet stiff resistance against the commission.
The commission was set up to investigate why Hilary Clinton won the popular vote by over three million ballots instead of Donald Trump. Despite winning the Electoral College, Trump claimed that the three million votes for Hilary Clinton were fraudulent and that voter fraud was a massive problem, despite the mountain of evidence that suggests that voter fraud is surprisingly rare and that getting three million fake votes in one day is virtually impossible, In fact, most cases of voter fraud are accidental rather than purposeful.
Despite all the evidence, Donald Trump persisted in his false and misleading claims which were barely refuted in the GOP and led to the commission’s creation, led by Kris Kobach and supported by both Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence.
Trouble started almost immediately when the panel was revealed to have some of the biggest advocates of voter suppression. The real blowback happened when the Commission sent out a broad-ranging request for voter information including details of military service that are usually considered confidential for security reasons, and even party affiliation last July.
Alarm bells rang for activists who feared that the information would be used to suppress or even punish voters while a former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) chief warned that the information would pose a cybersecurity risk if collected. A furious backlash from nearly 25 states saw the commission forced to back down as states either resisted the order citing privacy protection laws or openly defied it.
Meanwhile, both parties openly criticised the commission as a blatantly partisan effort as it became clear that Kobach and his team were in no mood to be open or transparent about their efforts. Civil and voting rights groups filed lawsuits but it was Matt Dunlap, a Democratic member of the commission who filed his own suit, that brought the murky dealings to the light and prompted the White House to shut down the commission.
But the fight against voter suppression has not gone away. Rather than drop the claims, Trump has merely replaced the protagonists. Kris Kobach is out to be replaced by the DHS who Trump has ordered to look into the claims of voter fraud. Some fear that a more difficult fight lies ahead with groups and states now having to deal with an arm of the federal government.
Yet there is still hope. The DHS is already stretched thin with Trump’s previous demand to round up and deport more undocumented immigrants. It is unclear whether the DHS has the resources or manpower to undertake a wide-scale investigation into an issue that many firmly believe isn’t a major issue. Kobach’s failure and the resentment he caused has left the DHS wary of treading the same path.
In addition, unlike the commission’s secretive nature, the DHS would be under federal oversight and would be subject to congressional hearings and public comment, making it much more transparent than Kobach’s efforts.
There are many problems with voting in America today such as an unclear system of registration, voter apathy, fears of interference from hackers and so on. Voter fraud is a serious issue, but it is very unlikely to occur to the extent Donald Trump would have you believe. If anything, it is a combination of wounded pride and a misunderstanding (or even hatred) of the hard-won voting rights and the democractic underpinnings of American citizens.
A battle has been won, but the war over voting rights continues apace.