Donald Trump likes to believe in a problem that doesn’t exist: the imagined scourge of voter fraud. After the election, the president repeatedly argued that “millions” of illegal votes were cast, in part because Trump was embarrassed his rival received millions more votes than he did, and in part to help lay the groundwork for a broader voter-suppression campaign.
To that end, the White House created a “commission” in May to investigate voter fraud – a problem that only exists in any meaningful sense in the imaginations of far-right policymakers and their allies – and Trump tapped Kansas’ Kris Kobach, a voter-suppression pioneer, to help lead the ridiculous exercise.
The initiative lacked any sense of subtlety: the point, as the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent explained at the time, was to use the commission as a tool to rig the electoral process and help Republicans win more races. Slate described Kobach’s role in the endeavor as “terrifying.”
That was not hyperbolic. The Washington Post reported yesterday on the dubious commission, determined to solve a problem that doesn’t exist, requesting data it isn’t entitled to.
The chair of President Trump’s Election Integrity Commission has penned a letter to all 50 states requesting their full voter-roll data, including the name, address, date of birth, party affiliation, last four Social Security number digits and voting history back to 2006 of potentially every voter in the state.
In the letter, a copy of which was made public by the Connecticut secretary of state, the commission head Kris Kobach said that “any documents that are submitted to the full Commission will also be made available to the public.”
On Wednesday, the office of Vice President Pence released a statement saying “a letter will be sent today to the 50 states and District of Columbia on behalf of the Commission requesting publicly available data from state voter rolls and feedback on how to improve election integrity.”
Several readers reached out yesterday with a good question: do states really have to turn over all of this data to an absurd commission led by voter-suppression proponents?
The answer appears to be no. In fact, officials in a variety of states – Connecticut, California, Virginia, Massachusetts, and Kentucky, among others – have already said they have no intention of providing Trump’s panel with this information. It’s a safe bet other states will soon follow.
It’s unclear how the commission might respond to state efforts to protect their voter rolls, but don’t be surprised if an interesting fight ensues.
Let’s also note for context that it was just last week that Kobach was fined by a federal judge for “patently misleading representations” and “deceptive conduct” he made to the court. He’s the guy Donald Trump wants to lead a federal commission on voting integrity.
As for what Kobach and his Republican allies might be able to do with expansive voter data, let’s not forget that GOP officials have already demonstrated a willingness and capacity to use this kind of information in pernicious and ugly ways.