Donald Trump’s attempt at voter suppression through his “election integrity” commission is a voting rights nightmare that is being enacted so clumsily it just might backfire. Both before and after the election, Trump made wild and unsubstantiated claims about voter fraud and the system being “rigged.” Before the election, many of the claims were about voters voting five, 10, or 15 times by impersonating other voters. The ridiculous and unproven charges of voter suppression had a racial tinge, with suggestions the fraud would happen in majority minority communities. According to the New York Times, he told an audience in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, a few weeks before Election Day: “I just hear such reports about Philadelphia. … I hear these horror shows, and we have to make sure that this election is not stolen from us and is not taken away from us.” He added for emphasis: “Everybody knows what I’m talking about.”
After the election, he shifted his unsubstantiated fraud talk from rumormongering about voter impersonation to claims of massive noncitizen voting. Trump said repeatedly that 3 to 5 million illegal voters had cast ballots, a claim so outlandish it is hard to know where to start to refute it. (We could start with a Brennan Center report which, so far, has found a total of 30 cases nationwide of possible noncitizen voting. That’s 30, not 300, 3,000, 30,000, 300,000, or 3 million.) He claimed that “none” of the supposed fraudulent votes went to him.
In hindsight, the focus on noncitizen voting makes sense, and the endgame is about passing federal legislation to make it harder for people to register and vote. The noncitizen focus fits in with Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric as well as the rhetoric of Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state who has been advising Trump on voter fraud issues. Kobach has repeatedly lost in lawsuits against the American Civil Liberties Union on account of his actions to make it harder for people to register and vote. Just last week, a federal magistrate judge fined him $1,000 for misleading the court by attempting to shield a document regarding his advice to Trump on how to make voter registration harder.