Trump’s ‘Elec­tion In­tegrity Com­mis­sion’ is a sham

The Mercury News Weekend - - OTHER VIEWS - By E. J. Dionne Jr. ten months E. J. Dionne Jr. is a Wash­ing­ton Post colum­nist.

WASH­ING­TON » It is nei­ther para­noid nor alarmist to be­gin ask­ing if the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion plans to ra­tio­nal­ize block­ing a large num­ber of vot­ers who op­pose the president from cast­ing bal­lots in 2018 and 2020. And it is im­per­a­tive that the civic-minded of all par­ties de­mand the dis­band­ing of a gov­ern­ment com­mis­sion whose very ex­is­tence is based on a lie.

The ly­ing doesn’t stop. Kris Kobach, the Kansas sec­re­tary of state, is vice chair­man of the Pres­i­den­tial Ad­vi­sory Com­mis­sion on Elec­tion In­tegrity. Its name re­minds us why the ad­jec­tive “Or­wellian” was in­vented. Kobach chose to use a meet­ing of the com­mis­sion in New Hamp­shire on Tues­day to con­tinue to cast doubt on the state’s elec­tion re­sults even af­ter his charges of voter fraud had fallen apart.

That Kobach had ini­tially made his case on Bre­it­bart is a sign that the man in charge of what is sup­posed to be a sober inquiry is sim­ply a pro­pa­gan­dist.

Here’s how he con­fected his Bre­it­bart tale. New Hamp­shire al­lows wouldbe vot­ers to reg­is­ter on Elec­tion Day. Kobach noted that 6,540 same-day reg­is­trants used out-of-state driver’s li­censes to ver­ify their iden­tity.

This is per­fectly legal un­der New Hamp­shire law, but Kobach’s “aha!” mo­ment was to re­veal that “af­ter the elec­tion” (the damn­ing ital­ics are his), only 1,227 of the 6,540 had ei­ther ob­tained New Hamp­shire driver’s li- censes or reg­is­tered a ve­hi­cle. Ergo, Kobach con­cluded of the re­main­der, “It seems that they never were bona fide res­i­dents of the state.”

And then he took sev­eral more leaps. First he la­beled the 5,313 as “fraud­u­lent votes.” Then he noted that Demo­crat Mag­gie Has­san de­feated then-in­cum­bent Repub­li­can Sen. Kelly Ay­otte by 1,017 votes. His ex­plo­sive claim: If 59.2 per­cent or more of these fake vot­ers went for Has­san, “the elec­tion was stolen through voter fraud.” Yes, he wrote “stolen.”

Here’s the prob­lem: New Hamp­shire’s Sec­re­tary of State Bill Gard­ner, a Demo­cratic mem­ber of the com­mis­sion, noted that Kobach sim­ply ig­nored what the state’s elec­tion law ac­tu­ally says. It al­lows vot­ing by those “domi­ciled” in the state — peo­ple who spend most of their nights in New Hamp­shire — and not just “res­i­dents.” Yes, they can vote even if they have driver’s li­censes from other states.

This cat­e­gory in­cludes col­lege stu­dents, and New Hamp­shire Pub­lic Ra­dio found that the high­est rates of vot­ing us­ing outof-state IDs oc­curred in col­lege towns.

So Kobach’s charges of fraud are them­selves fraud­u­lent, but he can’t seem to ad­mit that he was wrong. In­stead, he said at the com­mis­sion meet­ing that he might not have found “the right word” to de­scribe the sit­u­a­tion. He asked “if it’s pos­si­ble to con­dense a com­plex legal is­sue into an 800-word col­umn.”

We should, in­deed, be dis­cussing ways of mak­ing our elec­tions much bet­ter. We could build on the 2014 re­port from a gen­uinely bi­par­ti­san com­mis­sion led by two bat­tle-hard­ened elec­tion lawyers, Repub­li­can Ben Gins­berg and Demo­crat Bob Bauer.

Kobach’s com­mis­sion, how­ever, is just look­ing for ways to jus­tify new bar­ri­ers to vot­ing by groups not in­clined to sup­port Trump.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Protesters gather Tues­day at Saint Anselm Col­lege in Manch­ester, N.H., ahead of a day­long meet­ing of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s elec­tion in­tegrity com­mis­sion.

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