Tough Times for Voter Fraudsters

These are hard times for voter fraudsters, from Kris Kobach to Roy Moore. News last week that the Trump administration’s sham Election Integrity Commission was disbanded came not long after Alabama rejected Republican senate candidate and accused sexual predator Roy Moore’s claims of “voter fraud” and certified the election of Democratic candidate and now-Senator Doug Jones by nearly 22,000 votes.

President Donald Trump’s commission was created to serve his lie that millions of illegal votes denied him victory in the popular vote last year. It was a sham from the start, as made clear by the participation of hucksters, such as Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and head of the Heritage Foundation Hans von Spakovsky, who have built careers on the right by doggedly perpetuating the myth of widespread “voter fraud” no matter how many times they have been proven wrong.

Ironically, the enormous attention given to the commission and Moore’s fraud claims in Alabama has unintentionally served a noble purpose: debunking bogus claims of “voter fraud” that have been the right-wing’s flimsy rationale for restrictive voting laws for years. After all, Moore’s preposterous fraud allegations were small-ball compared to Trump’s claims, but they were too much even for Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill. Merrill has used his office to suppress the state’s black voters by relentlessly pushing for and harshly enforcing restrictive voting laws. He acknowledges the burdens of restrictions but says they’re needed to combat, wait for it… voter fraud.

But now that the commission’s fraudsters have skulked back to Kansas and the halls of the Heritage Foundation, the myths can’t be allowed to perpetuate in the shadows.

The Trump White House says the hunt for fraud will move to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), meaning the myth now may lurk in a politicized bureaucracy rather than in the camera glare of the commission. Indeed, Kobach may have been a little too honest when he said now “Democrats have lost their seat at the table.” Is there only a “Republican seat” at a government agency charged with protecting every American? Shocking.

Senior officials at DHS have indicated they have no plans to take up the hunt for illusory fraud and are instead rightly focused on working with states on voting systems’ digital security. However, the politicization of the Trump-Sessions Justice Department, now engaged in multiple renewed, highly politicized investigations of former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation, provides little comfort that DHS professionals can prevent a similar fishing expedition upon orders from the Oval Office.

The tragedy of it all is the fraudsters have done enormous damage to democracy by creating many harsh and unnecessary barriers to voting. The inordinate focus on fraud is shifting efforts from critical needs to protect and modernize voting systems.

There are real needs that a real “Election Integrity Commission” would address. That effort would press for restoration of the Voting Rights Act to protect every American’s voting rights and for modernization measures such as Automatic Voter Registration that would substantially upgrade state voter lists and dramatically decrease any opportunity for fraud. And any serious effort to improve election integrity would be moving strong action to combat the unprecedented foreign interference and attempts to hack local voting systems undertaken by the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Unfortunately, a real “Election Integrity Commission” is not underway to counter the true attacks that currently pose the greatest threats to the fairness and security of our nation’s elections. What is underway, however, is an effort to push already debunked “voter fraud” investigations into the purview of an agency that not only will be able to function beyond the public eye, but also is vastly unprepared for such a task. Voting rights activists nationwide must take this latest move as motivation to fight harder than ever before to ensure all Americans’ fair and equal access to the ballot box. We cannot allow our nation’s leaders to manipulate our democracy’s most fundamental right — the right to vote — for their own political gain.