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White House election commission becomes a fiasco for Trump, Kobach

Donald Trump's "elections integrity" commission, hoping to uncover evidence of a problem that doesn't exist, sought the voter roils from all 50 states. Oops.
A voter marks a ballot for the New Hampshire primary inside a voting booth at a polling place, Feb. 9, 2016, in Manchester, N.H. (Photo by David Goldman/AP)
A voter marks a ballot for the New Hampshire primary inside a voting booth at a polling place, Feb. 9, 2016, in Manchester, N.H.

For the White House, it must have seemed like a good idea at the time. Donald Trump, annoyed to have lost the popular vote by 3 million votes and compelled by ridiculous conspiracy theories, created an "elections integrity" commission, which was tasked with finding evidence of a voter-fraud problem that exists only in far-right imaginations.

To that end, the president appointed some of the nation's most notorious voter-suppression pioneers, including Kansas' Kris Kobach, to oversee the endeavor and request every state's full voter rolls, including the name, address, date of birth, party affiliation, last four Social Security number digits, and voting history for every voter going back more than a decade.

This hasn't turned out well. Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Grimes (D) wrote on Twitter, "One question: If @realDonaldTrump asked for your address, SSN, birthdate, political affiliation, & voting history, would you give it to him?" For most of the country, the answer is a resounding no.

Forty-four states have refused to provide certain types of voter information to the Trump administration's election integrity commission, according to a CNN inquiry to all 50 states. [...]Nineteen openly criticized the commission's request.

There's a limit as to what Team Trump can do about this -- Kobach has already admitted his commission cannot legally compel states to cooperate -- but the president apparently has a back-up plan.

The White House's strategy, evidently, is to shame states into turning over their voter rolls. "Numerous states are refusing to give information to the very distinguished VOTER FRAUD PANEL," Trump said on Twitter over the weekend. "What are they trying to hide?"

First, there's nothing "distinguished" about this charade. Second, Trump has no evidence of widespread voter fraud. Third, in the United States, no one is supposed to face accusations of wrongdoing because they balked at a government fishing expedition that's operating outside any legitimate legal framework. Fourth, President Secrecy is perhaps the last person in the country to suggest others have something to hide.

But even putting all of that aside, making the White House's whining look even worse is the scope of the pushback. If it were only a couple of blue states balking at the request, Trump might find it easier to start a political fight. But when 44 states recoil -- led by Democrats and Republicans, from coast to coast -- Trump World finds itself in yet another fiasco of its own making.

Postscript: One of the members of the White House's commission, Maryland Deputy Secretary of State Luis Borunda, reportedly resigned from the panel over the weekend.