With timing that was either irony or political tone deafness, just before Independence Day a panel created by the President of the United States issued a directive to all 50 states requesting that they submit a vast amount of information on American voters contained in state databases.
The rationale for this request is that the panel is looking to provide evidence for the President’s claim that there is widespread voter fraud in America. Since virtually everyone who has looked at this issue has not found any voter fraud of significance, the panel is the President’s effort to find anything that it can to create a false impression of a problem.
Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have refused to fully cooperate with the Presidential Advisory Commission on Voter Integrity, either declining to release any of the requested data or by providing only limited information to the panel. Governor Cuomo promptly pledged not to cooperate with the panel’s demands.
The panel requested "dates of birth, political party (if recorded in your state), last four digits of social security number if available, voter history (elections voted in) from 2006 onward, active/inactive status, cancelled status, information regarding any felony convictions, information regarding voter registration in another state, information regarding military status, and overseas citizen information."
In May, President Trump created the panel to look into his claims – asserted without evidence – that millions of votes were cast fraudulently. Now that panel wants virtually all the nation’s voter information.
The issue of voter fraud has been thoroughly researched. There is scant evidence that voter fraud is a problem. Probably the most definitive research in this area was done by a professor at Loyola Law School and an expert on voter fraud. His research found 31 credible incidents out of more than 1 billion votes cast from 2000 to 2014.
The experts know this to be true, so do state elections officials, yet the Trump Administration presses on. Why?
Those who peddle the rampant voter fraud lie have been using the claim to build the case for ever-stricter voting laws. Since there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud, they keep using the few anecdotes and deliberately overstating and misusing the evidence that is available as tools in their efforts to pass stricter voting laws.
It’s an example of propaganda, not policymaking.
It’s their hope that by repeating a falsehood, people will believe you, even when the facts demonstrate the opposite. Americans have seen this technique coming out of Washington quite a bit recently: a health care plan that is claimed to be better than the status quo, even though it takes away health insurance from millions; or that evidence of climate change is not definitive, even when the world’s experts have concluded otherwise.
Now the President is using this approach when it comes to democracy.
Of course, we all want there to be zero examples of voter fraud, but in terms of a problem, voter fraud is way, way, way down on the list.
What is a big problem, is “institutionalized voter suppression.” That problem is the result of laws designed to make it harder to vote – a constitutionally-protected right. The President should be looking at that problem – the way eligible voters are too easily purged from voting lists; the denial of adequate resources to set up polling places in urban areas; the hyper-stringent identification requirements; the ridiculous rule that voting must occur on a Tuesday in November, not when it is most convenient to vote.
New York should not feel smug in this area: The state is one of the worst offenders when it comes to these problems. America needs to do a better job and New York must too. Here are three things to be done:
- Establish a system of automatic voter registration for citizens interacting with all government agencies.
- Allow voters to register and vote on Election Day.
- Eliminate the patronage-controlled New York Boards of Elections by establishing merit selection of permanent Board employees across the state.
Government officials need to be telling the truth about the problems of voting in America, not lying about the scale of insignificant problems in order to advance an un-American agenda.
Blair Horner is executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group.
The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors.They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.