After Matthew Dunlap, one of the members of President Trump’s disbanded voting fraud panel, released documents from the commission showing that it had failed to turn up any evidence of widespread voter fraud last week, the panel’s vice chair, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, made his case for the commission’s existence. One of the foremost proponents of stricter voter identification laws, Kobach, who is running in the primary Tuesday for the Republican nomination for the state’s governorship, has been undeterred since a federal judge struck down a restrictive voting law he had advocated for in the state. And in a statement sent to The Washington Post, Kobach accused Dunlap of being “willfully blind to the voter fraud in front of his nose,” pointing to studies from two conservative groups about the supposed voter fraud that he has been so vocal about: a database from the Heritage Foundation that found 983 convictions in state, local and federal elections dating back decades, and a study from the Government Accountability Institute, a nonprofit founded by Stephen K. Bannon and another Breitbart editor, that purported to find 8,400 instances of double voting in the 2016 election.
Kobach’s response was included in the reports of outlets such as CNN, the Associated Press and HuffPost. But election experts interviewed by The Post said that the two studies made for a flawed portrait of the issue of voter fraud. Examining them provides a window into the ways in which statistics are massaged and studies are selectively deployed in the push to address the supposed mass scourge of voter fraud with stricter voter identification laws. Though a handful of people vote illegally, either intentionally or unintentionally, every year, election experts say that there is no evidence that voter fraud is a widespread issue of any statistical significance.
Myrna Pérez, a deputy director at New York University’s Brennan Center and an expert on voting rights, pointed out that Heritage Foundation’s database catalogued a range of misconduct that included actions like vote buying or ballot-altering by elected officials — a far cry from the type of fraud alleged by President Trump that informed the commission’s creation.