This story is at once terrifying, bizarre, and enervating
The terrifying part is that the Presidential Advisory Commissionon on Election Integrity, created by President Donald Trump to root out the voter impersonation fraud which doesn't exist but which he believes cost him the popular vote in the presidential election, is headed by Vice-President Mike Pence.
Yes, that Mike Pence, who will become President once Donald Trump leaves office, is officially in charge of the GOP's newest and boldest voter suppression effort. The vice-chairperson is Kris Kobach, who has been the nation's leader in trying to wipe likely Democratic voters off the voting rolls.
According to a copy of a letter, obtained by The Hill, sent to all 50 state secretaries of state, Kobach has
asked for names, addresses, birth dates and party affiliations of registered voters in each state. It also sought felony convictions, military statuses, the last four digits of Social Security numbers and voting records dating back to 2006,
Fortunately, 29 states thus far have denied Kobach's request, and on Saturday morning, the President tweeted (emphasis his, but did I really have to point that out?) "numerous states are refusing to give information to the very distinguished VOTER FRAUD PANEL. What are they trying to hide?"
That is an interesting question, one which reveals the bizarre- or maybe not so bizarre. Trump might want to ask the panel's vice-chairperson, the very individual who made the request.
"In Kansas," remarked the state's Secretary of State (a fellow named Kris Kobach) "the Social Security number is not publicly available. Every state receives the same letter, but we're not asking for it if it's not publicly available." The individual asking 49 other states to turn their data over to his commission refuses to give his own state's information to the Trump re-election effort. But Kris Kobach is running for governor, and Kansans would not be partial to use of their private information for political gain.
If this were only funny or grotesquely hypocritical, it would little matter. However
Justin Levitt, an elections expert at Loyola Law School, pointed to the request about voters’ party affiliations, which he said violates the federal Privacy Act of 1974. Critics also said that because of varying state laws, the commission won’t be able to make an apples-to-apples comparison with the data it collects, which could undermine its eventual conclusions.
The most acute worry Friday was about what the group’s expected report in 2018 will recommend.
“It could end up leading to trying to create a justification for more state laws that restrict voting in very serious and what are proven to be unlawful ways,” said Vanita Gupta, who headed the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division during the Obama administration. “And that’s through all kinds of cuts, through restrictive voter ID laws, through cuts in early voting [and] same day registration.”
There are sweeping demographic changes across the USA, changes which- if left unchecked- will doom GOP efforts to attain permanent electoral advantage. Voters from groups which skew Democratic must be stopped. Kris Kobach, Donald Trump, and Mike Pence think they've found the way to do that.