President Trump is doubling down on his false claims of voter fraud, fulfilling his promise to appoint a commission to study election integrity. We should see this move for what it is: a simple ploy to play into the misperceptions of his base, regardless of the evidence. More significant, if the focus of the commission is on election integrity, than it will be asking the wrong questions. We do not need a commission to tell us what we already know: Voter fraud, while existing occasionally in local races, is rare. Instead, we need to study why we make it far too hard for many people in this country to vote and what we can do to promote positive voting reforms. We need a commission on voter enhancements, not voter fraud.
The name of the commission, the “Presidential Commission on Election Integrity,” makes clear it is misdirected. The focus should be on the more pernicious problem of voter suppression, but none of the people on the commission has expressed much concern for making it easier to vote. Vice President Pence is the chairman, yet as governor of Indiana he oversaw a police raid of a voter registration organization’s office that came a month before the 2016 election, and many criticized it as politically motivated. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is the vice chair, yet for years he has pushed strict laws, such as proof-of-registration requirements, that harm voters. Courts have struck down these measures as unlawful.
Here are the facts: Voter fraud did not infect the 2016 presidential election. There were not millions of illegal votes. Measures such as strict voter ID requirements — which can only root out in-person voter impersonation — are a solution in search of a problem, yet they can prevent registered voters from voting. This commission has one simple goal: to provide justification for ever-more restrictive, yet unnecessary, voting laws.