So the Presidential Advisory Commission on Voter Integrity has issued a request for voter information from the states, and the result so far has pretty much been like the scenes from a “Roadrunner’’ cartoon after Wile E. Coyote has opened up his latest package from the Acme Corporation.
As in, it’s blown up in ol’ Integrity’s face.
This is understandable, as the information asked for by the Commission more or less parallels the information requested in an e-mail from a deposed Nigerian prince hoping you’ll help sneak his fortune out of the country (with a hefty cut for yourself, after a small investment on your part). As in: “dates of birth, political party (if recorded in your state), last four digits of social security number if available, voter history (elections voted in) from 2006 onward, active/inactive status, cancelled status, information regarding any felony convictions, information regarding voter registration in another state, information regarding military status, and overseas citizen information.”
As of this writing 44 states had, to varying degrees, turned down the request. Two states told the commission to jump in a lake. (Technically, one lake and the Gulf of Mexico). North Carolina’s letter was sent to Elaine Marshall. Elaine Marshall is North Carolina Secretary of State. The North Carolina Secretary of State doesn’t handle elections. The people who do said they’d be happy to provide info that was already publicly available. Now, the big Commission O’ Integrity was set up, in my view, to provide some cover for the current president’s claims that millions upon millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election. Claims that have zero proof.
Claims that have always had zero proof.
To review, back in the early 2000’s, various groups set out to say people were voting illegally left and right, or illegals were voting left and right. The Bush administration set out on a scorched-earth campaign to prove the claims accurate, firing a number of U.S. attorneys who weren’t enthusiastic enough in the hunt along the way.
When all was said and done, a five-year voter fraud probe yielded 86 criminal convictions, many of which appeared to have more to do with people filling out paperwork wrong on misinterpreting eligibility rules.
A later study from Justin Levitt of Loyola Law School found 31 cases of voter impersonation between 2000 and 2014. That’s out of more that one billion votes cast, a rate of one per every 32 million votes cast.
There’s a reason for that. In-person voter fraud, long the case for Voter ID laws, is stupid. The odds of an election official knowing the person you’re trying to vote for, or knowing you, are fairly high, especially in intimate smaller precincts such as can be found here.
It reminds me of the story of Reggie Harding, a 7-foot-tall former NBA player back in the early 1960s who turned to crime. He put on a mask and tried to rob a local establishment, which prompted the clerk to take one look at the 7-foot-tall thief and say “I know that’s you, Reggie.’’ The quick-witted Harding replied, “It ain’t me, man.”
But the voter-fraud theory has arisen again, featuring a great many of the players who have been pushing it for a living all along. A new darling in those circles is a fellow named Chris Kobach, Kansas secretary of state, who co-chairs the Integrity group.
Kobach favors a multistate database of voter information (I assume the info request from the commission would establish a national database) called Crosscheck. In theory Crosscheck sounds great – it matches birthdates and names, and flags anyone who looks like they’re double-registered.
In practice, researchers recently found it spits out 200 false positive for every voter who’s legitimately crossed the line.
Justin Levitt of Loyola Law School told The Washington Post an expanded Crosscheck would be “a recipe for massive amounts of error … when you’ve got hundreds of millions of records, and thousands of John Smiths, trying to figure out which of them is your John Smith without making a mistake is well nigh impossible.”
Maybe it’s just me, but that doesn’t sound like much of a way to restore integrity to elections. Then again, it would take some integrity to restore some integrity. At least the states are showing some in this episode.
Jim Buchanan is special projects editor for the Sylva Herald. Published with permission from The Sylva Herald.