Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach talks about the Kansas voter ID law in his Topeka, Kan., office May 12, 2016.
Photo by Dave Kaup/Reuters

Trump’s voting commission heads to NH amid ongoing controversies

Members of Donald Trump’s scandal-plagued voting commission will host a public event in New Hampshire today, and those expecting a serious examination of the issue are likely to be disappointed. Mother Jones reported that the panel will welcome “a controversial pack of witnesses that includes tarnished academics and political allies” of voter-suppression pioneer Kris Kobach, who co-chairs the commission.

What’s more, despite the fact that GOP-imposed voting restrictions tend to adversely affect minority communities, 12 of the 12 announced witnesses are white men. Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, responded, “By stacking the deck with an all-white and male cast of panelists, the Commission has created an echo chamber to support Kris Kobach’s baseless claims of voter fraud.”

But ahead of today’s event, it’s also worth appreciating why Trump’s ridiculous panel chose the Granite State for today’s hearing.

The state was one of the first targets of Donald Trump’s claims of illegal voting during the 2016 election — he lost the state by a razor-thin margin (fewer than 2,800 votes). Weeks after he defeated Hillary Clinton, Trump claimed without evidence that the state had “serious voter fraud” and charged that “thousands” of people from Massachusetts were bused into in the Granite State to vote.

Trump’s vote fraud panel is coming to New Hampshire on Tuesday for its second public meeting, only days after the commission’s vice chairman amplified in an op-ed the president’s baseless claims that illegal voting had possibly swayed the election in the state.

The idea that there was rampant voter fraud in New Hampshire was already discredited in February, when Trump first started pushing this nonsense, but Kansas’ Kris Kobach renewed the push with a piece last week for the right-wing Breitbart website.

Not surprisingly, it wasn’t long before the Republican’s argument was thoroughly and completely debunked. Kobach’s case, put simply, was demonstrably absurd.

All of which leads to three straightforward questions: (1) is Kobach lying; (2) if so, why; and (3) what should the consequences be for his deliberate attempt to mislead the American people about the right to vote.

On the first question, the evidence is unambiguous: it’s impossible to give Kobach’s argument an honest look and take it seriously. The Kansan may be desperate to find “proof” that would help justify new voting restrictions, especially targeting younger voters, but if Kobach wants us to stop laughing at him, he’ll need to look elsewhere.

Which leads us to the question of motive. The obvious reason to push a bogus narrative like this one is to create a framework for policymakers: voter-suppression advocates need a rationale to approve new restrictions, and Kobach appears a little too eager to provide them with one.

And so what happens now? The Washington Post’s Philip Bump made a powerful case that Kobach’s attempt at public deception is “disqualifying.”

This isn’t a game. Trump’s commission seems clearly designed to present fraud as a significant threat to the electoral system, a claim that’s belied by any number of studies, including one looking specifically at New Hampshire, and the lack of nearly any actual uncovered examples of it…. The effect of the commission will invariably be to call for new legislation making it harder to vote. Such a law in Kansas meant that 34,000 fewer people voted in that state in 2012 than in 2008, with those affected skewing younger and less white. Read: More Democratic.

Kobach’s past behavior and other recent comments have suggested he’s inappropriate for his Trump-appointed role; this Breitbart essay makes that more clear. Incidentally, it was revealed recently that Kobach is compensated for his work at the conservative site. As a paid columnist, the logical leaps of that piece are questionable, much less as one of the two guys running an ostensibly objective look at if there is fraud in the system.

What I’m saying is that the arguments Kobach presents about fraud in New Hampshire – and I recognize the significance of what I’m about to write – should have been too far afield even for Breitbart. They are unquestionably too flawed for someone with the authority that President Trump has bestowed upon him.

It’s an underappreciated point: Kobach has been caught lying about voter fraud while helping lead a White House commission on voter fraud. His continued presence on the panel is an embarrassment.

Kris Kobach, Voting Rights and War On Voting

Trump's voting commission heads to NH amid ongoing controversies