On Wednesday, Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission held its first public meeting, allowing each participant to voice his or her utterly unjustified belief that fraudulent voting is a rampant problem in the United States. (The commission has already held a private meeting that may have violated federal law.) During his remarks, Kris Kobach—Kansas’ Republican secretary of state and vice chairman of the commission—asserted that more than 18,000 noncitizens may have registered to vote in Kansas. He also alleged that the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, which compares states’ voter rolls, has uncovered “literally millions of people” who are registered in at least two states. Both of these claims are completely false. Let’s start with the Kansas lie. When running for secretary of state in 2010, Kobach repeatedly insisted that voter fraud in the state, particularly noncitizen voting, was “pervasive” and “massive.” Then–Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh—a Republican who served in that position for 16 years—responded that “the voter fraud Kris Kobach speaks of does not exist.” Researchers found that, over the previous decade, the government had uncovered just seven instances of unlawful voting in Kansas, none of which involved noncitizens. Yet Kobach persisted, as this crude nativism was central to his campaign. A week before the election, he said he’d found a smoking gun: A deceased man named Alfred K. Brewer, Kobach claimed, had likely cast a vote in the August primary. Reporters found Brewer in his yard, alive. “I don’t think this is heaven, not when I’m raking leaves,” he explained. Kobach had confused Brewer with his father, who was deceased, and who had not cast a vote since he’d shuffled off this mortal coil.
… Why, then, does Kobach continue peddling these outright falsehoods? Two reasons. First, this commission is designed to validate Trump’s claim that he would have won the popular vote in 2016 if millions of people hadn’t cast fraudulent ballots for Hillary Clinton. Kobach has agreed with Trump’s estimate, and he will likely use Crosscheck-style techniques to produce bogus statistics that purportedly legitimize that fictitious claim. Second, Kobach wants Congress to gut the NVRA so states like Kansas are free to demand proof of citizenship and purge voters from the rolls. The NVRA prevents this sort of disenfranchisement, and Kobach has written that he wishes to amend the law in order to relax its safeguards. That, in the end, is the primary goal of this commission: to produce wildly inflated claims of voter fraud, then urge Congress to undermine the NVRA.
Wednesday’s meeting demonstrated that the president, the vice president, and Kobach’s co-commissioners are willing to play along with the ruse. The only remaining question is whether congressional Republicans will buy into their disenfranchisement scheme.