Of the hundreds of whoppers that President Trump has told since his election, an early one remains the most toxic. In days following his electoral college victory, Trump claimed that he would have also won the popular vote “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” Trump later refined this claim, insisting that three to five million undocumented voters threw the popular election for Clinton. By way of proof, the president waved at an outlandish story: that golfer Bernhard Langer – a German citizen, barred from voting in the in the US – had had his path to the voting booth clogged by men and women, who by skin color and accent were obviously fraudulent voters. At first, the voter fraud fantasy seemed like no more than a display of the touchiness and extravagant narcissism that led Trump, in the face of undeniable evidence to the contrary, to insist that his inaugural crowds were larger than Obama’s. In fact, the lie concealed a much more ambitious and insidious political agenda. In May, with the creation of the “Presidential Advisory Committee on Voter Integrity,” Trump bootstrapped the myth of voter fraud into an institutional reality. The goal: to use the allegation of fraud to tighten voting procedures that will suppress the votes of minorities, groups that generally vote Democratic.
Vice-President Pence, who nominally chairs the 10-person committee, sought early on to assure the public that the group was convened with no preconceived views or agenda. He might as well have said: “Yes, we’ve created a dedicated, tax-payer funded committee to look into Bigfoot’s existence, but I want to emphasize that we remain open to evidence that Bigfoot may not exist.”
Alas, Bigfoot is alive and well on the committee. Recently we learned that in the run-up to the panel’s creation, a member of the Heritage Foundation, presumably Hans von Spakovsky, a well-known voter fraud alarmist, wrote an email responding to the “very disturbing” news that the commission might be “bipartisan and include democrats (sic).” Even appointing “mainstream Republican officials and/or academics,” the email warned, would run the risk of turning the committee into “an abject failure.”
The concern was duly noted. The de facto head of the committee is its vice-chair, Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach, a true believer who has shown a Trumpian disregard of fact in his crusade against a widespread and persistent problem the very existence of which remains entirely fanciful.