Misdirection

I always read these articles about illegal voting hoping that the writer will allay my suspicions that large numbers of people ineligible to vote are voting. I hope that voter fraud is indeed no real problem, rather than a huge problem that is difficult to pin down, so I also hope the latest criticism of, finally, an actual commission to look into the problem holds together and makes sense.

And so far, I'm always disappointed. It's nearly always, "we know voter fraud is a tiny problem" when we know no such thing. It's generally sentence first, verdict afterwards. Like this one, from UK law professor Joshua A. Douglas titled: Demand for voter rolls shows ugly truth about Trump's voter fraud commission.

We really don't know how bad the problem of non-citizen voting is. During the Obama administration, the feds refused to let any state compare its state roll of voters against the federal list of resident aliens. Now that our federal government is prepared to learn something, some of the states (guess on which side of the political spectrum they are) are refusing to show the state rolls. It's like the Democrats don't want us to know, or something.

Let's take a look at the Professor's logic regarding the essential nature of the investigation. His bold start:

If we need any further evidence that President Donald Trump's voter fraud commission is a sham, we can find it in its request for all 50 states to turn over exceedingly detailed information on its voter rolls, without any apparent justification.

The vice chairman of the commission, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, sent a letter to all 50 states requesting the state's publicly-available voter rolls, including such personal information as the last four digits of someone's Social Security number and "information regarding military status."


OK, let me emphasize some key phrases in the first two paragraphs: 1) "publicly-available voter rolls" and 2) "last four digits of someone's Social Security number." Keep those in mind.

In the abstract, matching voter rolls with other available data may not seem like a bad idea. After all, we all want accuracy in our voter registration information.


Wow, that sounds reasonable. But it's immediately followed with this seeming non-sequitur.

The problems come about when one looks deeper into Kobach's history, which I'll discuss in a moment, and which offers some blunt clues about his true motivations.


How, exactly, does the history of the vice chairman of the commission impact on the investigation which is OK "in the abstract"? I wish there was a cogent answer to this question in the article. You will see that there is none.

To begin, the information he's seeking will reveal what we know already -- that some voter registration rolls are bloated -- and not much else. The voter databases include extra people for a particularly innocuous reason: Individuals die or move quite frequently.


No, the inquiry will certainly focus on resident aliens, whose identities are a federal matter. Thus, we have to match the state voter rolls with the federal resident alien list to see how many, if any, of the non-citizens voted. (And that leaves out the number of illegal aliens about whom the feds know nothing). We know some non-citizens voted, because some non-citizens have admitted to voting. There are studies and polls whose conclusion is that the number of resident alien voters is between high six figures and low seven figures--a real problem either way since many elections are decided by just a few thousand votes, some by a few hundred. So no, the comparison of the federal and state lists will not show that state rolls have extra people, it will show the actual size of the problem regarding resident aliens, that is, non-citizens we know about, voting.

But there is no evidence whatsoever that outdated voter lists lead to any kind of voter fraud. Simply put, dead people, or those who have moved, do not vote illegally in any significant number.


This is begging the question. The federal resident alien rolls will not tell us a lot about the dead and moved registered voters, but that's almost certainly not the central focus of the commission. Haven't the Professor and the experts repeatedly told us the dead and moved voters are not a problem. But the Commission is not looking primarily for dead and moved voters.

In addition, election data experts -- notably lacking on this commission -- know that simply comparing large lists of voters will not provide useful information because of the number of false matches. The well-known "Birthday Problem" shows that it is somewhat likely that two people with the same common name -- say, John Smith -- will also share a birthday. The fact that two different state voter rolls might list this same name is not evidence of voter fraud.


OK, but now one might detect the importance of the Commission's asking for last four digits of the SSNs. There indeed might be a lot of false positives with just a common name and a birth date, but throw the SSNs into the mix and the false positives shrink to insignificance. So did the Professor forget about the "last four digits" of the SSN request? Or is he trying, clumsily, to do a little sleight-of-hand? Hmmmm.

Yet those who peddle the rampant voter fraud canard have been looking for evidence to support their theories, all in an effort to justify ever-stricter voting laws. They cannot find any widespread voter fraud, so they use issues of bloated voter registration rolls as their evidence. But that proves nothing beyond the reality that states need a better way to update their voter rolls.


See, the whole voter fraud thing is a canard and the peddlers of the canard can't find any widespread voter fraud. See, the Professor already knows. It's a tiny problem, nothing to see here, move along. But again he employs misdirection: "they use the issues of bloated voter registration rolls as their evidence." No, I repeat, the Commission wants primarily to compare the federal list of non-citizens with the state voter rolls. They want to see how many names match. No one has done this yet, and no one knows what the result will be. I have to accuse the Professor of ignoring the primary intent of the investigation and its central method of finding out how many non-citizens vote. The Professor pretends that part doesn't exist. Nothing to see here, move along.

This is exactly what Trump's Commission on Election Integrity is positioning itself to do, as well: use evidence of voter registration anomalies to promote strict voting rules that make it harder for some people to vote.


Yeah, we want to make it harder for non-citizens to vote. The Professor leaves out the central purpose again to allude to and support the Democrat Big Lie that Republicans want to stop people who could legally vote from voting. Good try, Professor. Now he gets to the nefarious intent of the vice-chairman Kris Kobach.

Indeed, we already know that one of Kobach's main policy goals is to repeal the National Voter Registration Act, also known as Motor-Voter, which makes it easier to register to vote.


Noooooo! Kobach doesn't like the Motor-Voter Act, through which states, which don't allow same day registration voting, solicit voter registration from everyone who gets or renews a drivers license. Who could be against that sterling piece of legislation? And anyone who doesn't like it, cannot be trusted. That goes without saying.

He also supports strict proof of citizenship requirements for registration that make it harder for some people to vote -- with zero corresponding "integrity benefit."


This is the money quote where the Professor's case falls totally apart. The major, indeed the central reason for the Commission to exist is to see how bad a problem non-citizen voting is by comparing lists. I know I've said that many times already but I want to repeat it for every opportunity the Professor misses to actually mention it. Someone actually interested in the integrity of the voter rolls would want them to contain only the names of people who legally could vote. A voting roll with no non-citizens on it would necessarily have greater integrity than a roll with many, or even some, non-citizens' names on it.

Seen in this light, it seems obvious why Kobach has requested detailed voter data from all 50 states, and why almost half the states, like Virginia and Kentucky, are rightly refusing to comply. Setting aside the privacy concerns (of which there are many), this information will provide nothing useful while laying the groundwork for the commission to peddle its theories of massive voter fraud.


Privacy concerns? The many privacy concerns regarding the "publicly-available voter rolls"? Whom are you trying to fool, Professor? But, of course, the states' lists of voters won't help at all. It's never good to have more information during an investigation. We already know that there is no voter fraud (well, not a lot of it) so why shouldn't the states keep the "publicly-available voter rolls" secret? And perhaps I'm wrong here, but isn't it the Professor who is trying to peddle the theory of little voter fraud while the commission is trying to establish the fact of just how many resident aliens vote.

The public should not be fooled.


No, the Professor doesn't want the public fooled, just kept completely in the dark. There's an important difference there.

If Trump's commission were a serious endeavor, it would include top election experts from both sides of the aisle. For the commission itself to have integrity, it must look at the ways states make it harder to vote for no good reason, such as through strict voter ID requirements that serve no purpose other than to drum up concerns of voter fraud, harming actual voters in the process.


There's no good reason to require (through the near universal, already acquired method of a drivers license) that voters show that they are whom they claim to be? No, of course, we'd be much better off just to take their word for it, since we already know that voter fraud hardly every happens.

If this commission were genuine, it would consider ways to make it easier to vote and enhance the election system, such as through automatic voter registration or by increasing early voting opportunities.


But automatic voter registration and early voting have been identified as fertile ground for voter fraud. And who doesn't want everyone registered to vote, especially the ones who have no desire to register or to vote. Those are the best kind of voters, for Democrats.

Instead, Trump's voter fraud commission has one purpose, represented even in its name: the Commission on Election Integrity. It will focus solely on "integrity" so that the public thinks there is a problem where none exists.
That approach will lead us backward, not forward, in the effort to promote and protect the right to vote, the most fundamental right in our democracy.


Isn't having my legal vote cancelled out by the opposing vote of a non-citizen as bad a method of voter suppression as preventing a legal voter from voting? The Professor is silent on the subject.

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