Donald Trump may have abandoned his commission on 'voter fraud', but voter suppression continues

The President wanted evidence that he would have beaten Hillary Clinton in the popular vote, had it not been for all those supposed illegal aliens showing up at polling stations

David Usborne
Saturday 06 January 2018 14:11
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The absurd claim is reminiscent of Sean Spicer denying there were fewer people at Trump's Inauguration ceremony than at Barack Obama's
The absurd claim is reminiscent of Sean Spicer denying there were fewer people at Trump's Inauguration ceremony than at Barack Obama's

We have something to celebrate this first weekend of 2018. Amidst all the gasping, glee and horror ignited by that book about the madness of King Donald – Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff – one of his most treasured and pitiful executive endeavours has been quietly thrown to the dung heap.

That it ever existed remains hard to credit. We are talking about the blue ribbon commission that President Trump created last May to investigate the assertion that the 2016 election was riddled with voter fraud.

It was called the Election Integrity Commission and he appointed two men to lead its work, Vice President Mike Pence and Kris Kobach: an uber-conservative state official from Kansas for whom every vote not cast by a white male is presumed suspicious.

Upon pulling the plug on the panel late on Wednesday – the timing was no mistake, as the release of excerpts from the Wolff tome assured most of the country wouldn’t even notice – the White House said it was acting to avoid “endless legal battles at taxpayer expense” were the commission to continue its work.

That would be fair, since it was being sued left and right, both by individual states and by civil rights groups for prying illegally into voter roll records and keeping much of its work secret, including from some of its own (Democrat) members.

White House's Stephen Miller confronted on lack of evidence for mass voter fraud

Was there a single living being in America who didn’t understand that the biggest waste of taxpayer money was establishing this entity in the first place? It had one clear purpose: to find evidence to support Trump’s claim that he had not only won the electoral college in November 2016, but that he would have beaten Hillary Clinton in the popular vote too, had it not been for all those illegal aliens showing up at polling stations and voting for her when they weren’t allowed.

That Trump couldn’t stand not having beaten her entirely was something he himself revealed in a tweet soon after the election. “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,“ he said. “I will be asking for a major investigation into VOTER FRAUD."

In other words, Pence and Kobach – the latter didn’t mind, the former surely did – were tasked with allaying Trump’s private misery over his triumph. It was unbearable to him that 2.9 million more actual voters ticked Clinton’s name over his. Please tell me that’s not true, he pleaded with them. Find me 2.9 million (plus one) illegal immigrants who snuck ballots into the boxes. Please. And tell me that every one of them voted for Clinton.

The whole exercise was reminiscent of former spokesman Sean Spicer claiming that all that green we could see on the Washington Mall during Trump’s inaugural address wasn’t grass at all. It was adoring fans dressed like turf. Because it was the biggest inauguration crowd ever.

More than just a nonsense, the panel was also dangerous, because Kobach and the allies he stacked it with saw it as a vehicle for later implementing voter suppression measures dressed up as voter fraud containment. that itself is code for discouraging as many minority voters as possible from participating on election day because they tend to vote Democrat.

To achieve both aims – soothe Trump’s paranoia, and narrow the voting population – some political finesse was required on their part, which they lacked. There was the embarrassing leaking last summer of an email from one its own members – the Heritage Foundation's Hans Von Spakovsky – to the Justice Department asking it to ensure that not a single Democrat be appointed to the panel lest, you know, they caused any trouble.

Kobach was especially clumsy. Asked in an interview at the time of the panel’s creation if he thought Clinton had won the popular vote, he revealed his own bias. "We will probably never know the answer to that question," he told MSNBC.

Never mind that even then there was not a single expert out there who doubted the fact. Then at one of only two meetings of the commission he averred that “thousands” of out-of-state car licence plates had been spotted on the roads of New Hampshire during election day.

That proved what, exactly? Nothing, according to one irritated Democrat on the panel (yes, a few were allowed to participate). He was Matthew Dunlap, the secretary of state of Maine. “That would be almost as absurd as saying if you have cash in your pocket that you robbed a bank,” he objected.

It was Dunlap’s decision shortly thereafter to sue the commission for failing to keep him abreast of its own work that apparently persuaded the White House to abandon the whole exercise. A judge in Washington DC in December agreed that Dunlap’s case against it could go forward. It didn’t really speak well of the commission that one of its own members was suing it.

The foolish claim that Trump and not Clinton won the popular vote in 2016 has presumably now been laid to rest. Yet to save itself from total humiliation, the administration said the work begun by the panel will now be taken up by the Department of Homeland Security.

That means vigilance is still necessary, because the other goal – finding ways to suppress voter participation without anyone really noticing – is not something this administration will give up on so easily.

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