President Trump’s claim that 3 million to 5 million undocumented immigrants voted illegally in last fall’s elections is as evidence-based as the assertion that space aliens on Saturn are bombarding planet Earth with marshmallows. Nonetheless, Washington being Washington, Mr. Trump’s declaration has generated its own politically charged momentum in the form of a presidential commission to investigate voter fraud — a topic that has been endlessly investigated for years, with consistent results: There is no evidence that it is widespread or has materially affected the outcome of any U.S. election. Now Mr. Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity is beginning its work under the guidance of its vice chair, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican notorious for his efforts at vote suppression.
As an opening salvo, Mr. Kobach has written to state election officials requesting that they hand over voter rolls, including not only names, addresses and dates of birth, but also party affiliation, voting history back to 2006 and the last four digits of Social Security numbers — all of which he says will be made public.
Mr. Kobach’s preposterous request — making public millions of partial Social Security numbers: Seriously? — has generated well-founded fears about privacy and data security; more than two dozen states have already announced they will refuse to convey the data he requested. Those same concerns have blocked the compilation until now of any such all-in-one list of every registered voter in the United States. In addition, Mr. Kobach’s elaborate past efforts at voter suppression in Kansas, mainly blocked by federal and state courts, provide ample cause for alarm that the commission’s real goal is an aggressive purge of voter rolls — a meat-cleaver approach whose inevitable effect would be widespread disenfranchisement.