Let’s be clear at the outset. There is no evidence of a massive voter fraud problem in the United States. There is no evidence of even a modest voter fraud problem in the United States. There is no statistical evidence. There is no anecdotal evidence. There is no more evidence that we need national protections from voter fraud than there is that we need to wear personal lightning-rod suits so that we avoid the 30-odd deaths each year from electrical storms. For any other president, then, an executive order establishing a “presidential advisory commission on election integrity” such as the one Donald Trump signed on Thursday would prompt a flurry of questions about why such a commission was needed. For Trump, though, it’s part of the package: Directing government resources, however modest, to bolster a faulty political argument that he’s embraced despite being repeatedly shown that it’s false.
Per the executive order, the commission will “study the registration and voting processes used in Federal elections” and submit a report that identifies “laws, rules, policies, activities, strategies, and practices” that enhance or undermine confidence in the integrity of the voting system. The report will also identify “vulnerabilities in voting systems and practices used for Federal elections that could lead to improper voter registrations and improper voting, including fraudulent voter registrations and fraudulent voting.” In other words, places on the human body susceptible to damage from lightning strikes.
Trump didn’t introduce the idea of targeting voter fraud. It’s been a hobbyhorse for Republicans for some time, offered as a rationale for new voter-registration limits that have the consistent side effect of making it harder for Democratic-voting populations to cast a ballot.
What Trump did is turbocharge it, using his platform on the campaign trail and then as president-elect to claim (completely without evidence) that fraud was rampant and threatened the results of national elections. When he first started down this path last summer, it seemed as if he was mostly seeding excuses for his likely loss in advance. But he kept up the same nonsensical claims even after he won, almost certainly because his win came despite having earned nearly 3 million fewer votes than his opponent.