Kris Kobach to investigate Election Integrity… NOOO!!

Trump’s Election Integrity Investigation

Headed by… wait for it… vote thief KRIS KOBACH!

Popcorn- Kobach

The Bible asks, “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?”  We now know the unsurprising answer is Donald Trump.  Trump recently announced an investigation into Election Integrity, which may at first sound like a good thing.  After all, we should have confidence in our election systems and an occasional audit gives a rational basis for that confidence… “Trust but verify.”  But here’s where the snake bites… the investigation will be headed by Mike Pence and Kris Kobach.   If Kobach’s nameRestOfNewsletter rings a bell concerning elections, it should… he’s the architect of Interstate Cross Check, the multi-state system responsible for quietly stealing the votes of millions… that’s right, MILLIONS, of Americans…

There are few things more critical to any democracy than the voting systems; the laws, processes, and nuts-and-bolts of the machinery that lets us determine our collective will.  Yet there have been criticisms of our election process for years, at every level, from every point on the political spectrum, and ranging from calm analysis to slavering paranoia.  It may seem that recounts of votes and monitoring of voting mechanisms would be standard operating procedure, but when it’s all-to-rarely implemented it’s seen as the challenge of a sore loser rather than confirmation of the important.Palast pic

That said, it seems natural to welcome an unbiased investigation into Election Integrity. Well, it would be, but unfortunately and unsurprisingly, Donald Trump’s investigation is not even intended to be an unbiased inquiry and there’s a way to know… the two people heading it are Kris Kobach, the architect of one of the biggest election frauds in history, and Mike Pence, one of the two beneficiaries of that fraud.

Let us explain… according to the Election Integrity Project, there are four potential weaknesses in modern elections.  They are:

  • Voter Fraud- This is the kind of thing Trump was talking about when he babbled about “3 million illegal votes”; individual people casting double votes, or votes in another person’s name, or casting votes if they aren’t properly registered, stuff like that.  Problem is, IT DOESN’T HAPPEN, at least in significant numbers.  In elections studied for voter fraud, incident rates were between .0003 and .0025 percent, lower odds than being struck by lightning.  But that’s going to be the focus of Trump’s “investigation”.
  • MaladministrationCovers ineptitude or inability in conducting the elections.  Includes broken or poorly distributed voting machines, inaccessible polling places, inconvenient voting times. Also includes accidental failures in the nuts-and-bolts of electoral maladministration as well as errors and machine breakdowns in registration and balloting.
  • Cybersecurity– This covers data failures in modern elections.  It covers a person or persons, whether hacker or politician or voting machine owner, who breaks into the system and changes votes electronically.  There’s little evidence that it has happened, but much evidence that it could.
  • SuppressionKeeping qualified people from voting by challenging their voting rights. While maladministration applies to a solid, fair election process that goes badly, suppression involves intentional deprivation. It usually covers large swaths of a population rather than individuals.  Much voter suppression comes from law, like gerrymandering, but many of the problems of maladministration become tools for suppression… a polling place may have not received enough voting machines because of incompetent election planning, or it may not have enough machines because it leans heavily in an undesirable political direction.

Now let’s look at those threats… The Election Integrity panel is being formed to investigate Trump’s fictitious allegations of voter fraud, which don’t happen in reality.  Investigation of maladministration and cybersecurity could be very valuable, but these have been studied for years without solution and the panel isn’t planning to look at those anyway.  It’s the fourth threat, suppression, that actually DOES happen but is pointedly NOT being examined, and that’s where Kris Kobach comes in.  He created the Interstate Cross Check plan, and if you don’t know how it works let us tell you:

  1. States provide their voter rolls to Cross Check. As of 2013 there were 28 states participating, though Florida and Oregon have since dropped out. So far, Crosscheck has tagged an astonishing 7.2 million suspects.
  2. The voter rolls are compared against each other to identify people who are registered to vote in two different states, ie: “potential double voters”.
  3. The mechanism for identifying duplicates is (intentionally) loose. Crosscheck compares First Name, Last Name, and Date of Birth.  It doesn’t include middle names or initials, nor does it make allowances for nicknames or shortened names.  John Q. Smith, born 1951 in Denver is the same guy as John D. Smith born 1951 in Atlanta.
  4. Matches are removed from voter rolls in both states. “Matched” voters are sent a plain postcard which they must return to the Secretary of State.  If they don’t, they are purged from the voter roll.
  5. Purged voters only find out when they go to vote. If they’re lucky they’ll be given a provisional ballot, but these ballots are rarely (if ever) counted.

So far Crosscheck seems clumsy and overcautious, but here’s where it gets insidious.  “The U.S. Census data shows that minorities are over-represented in 85 of 100 of the most common last names. If your name is Washington, there’s an 89 percent chance you’re African-American. If your last name is Hernandez, there’s a 94 percent chance you’re Hispanic. If your name is Kim, there’s a 95 percent chance you’re Asian.  This inherent bias results in an astonishing one in six Hispanics, one in seven Asian-Americans and one in nine African-Americans in Crosscheck states landing on the list.”   The requirement to return a postcard to confirm voter status amplifies the Crosscheck bias; “According to the Census Bureau, white voters are 21 percent more likely than blacks or Hispanics to respond to their official requests; homeowners are 32 percent more likely to respond than renters; and the young are 74 percent less likely than the old to respond. Those on the move – students and the poor, who often shift apartments while hunting for work – will likely not get the mail in the first place.”  (quotes from Mark Swedlund, in Rolling Stone’s “The GOP’s Stealth War Against Voters”, Aug 2016)  Whether it’s the intended effect or not, Crosscheck massively reduces voting rates among poor and minority, typically Democratic constituencies.  Almost all Crosscheck states are Republican-controlled, and whether from intent or apathy, they’re willing to let this massively flawed program continue.

Things get worse, but that goes far beyond the scope of this article.  If you want a REAL investigation into Election Integrity, watch Greg Palast’s “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy” that DOCUMENTS Kobach’s assault on everything it means to be American.  And hey, keep an eye out for the results of the Trump Investigation too.  Could be interesting!

Digging Deeper…

The GOP’s Stealth War Against Voters, by Greg Palast in Rolling Stone, Aug 2016

Participation in the Interstate CrossCheck system, Center for American Progress Action Fund

Questions & Answers: Interstate Crosscheck Program (“Crosscheck”) & Electronic Registration Information Center (“ERIC”) by Advancement on Advancement Project, Aug 2015

Kris Kobach, the ‘King of Voter Suppression,’ Will Lead Trump’s Sham Voter Fraud Commission. Be Afraid, Very Afraid. By Amrit Cheng, on the ACLU Website, May 2017

The Presidential Advisory Commission on Voter Suppression, by Jamelle Bouie on Slate, May 2017

Why It’s Not About Election Fraud, It’s Much Worse, by Norris, Garnett, and Gromping at The Electoral Integrity Project, Dec 2016

Both Dems, GOP Have Reason To Support Election Fraud Investigation, by John DeMaggio in The Hill, Dec 2016

BlackBoxVoting.org, “Black Box Voting, founded in 2003, is a nonpartisan investigative reporting and public education organization for elections.”

Trump ally defended claims of massive voter fraud on CNN. It did not go well. By Zack Ford on ThinkProgress, Jeb 2017

Smirking Chimp- Election Integrity, blog posts through today

ElectionDefenseAlliance.org– Election Defense Alliance (EDA) is a participatory organization of citizens collaborating at the local, state, and national levels to ensure governments accountable to the people are legitimately elected.

Why Trump Spreading Fears About the Election Is So Dangerous, by Thom Hartmann on AlterNet, Oct 2016

Trump Launches Commission To Investigate Voter Fraud, by Ken Thomas on AP, May 2017

Debunking the Voter Fraud Myth, Brennan Center For Justice, Jan 2017

How to Hack an Election in 7 Minutes, by Ben Wofford in Politico Magazine, Aug 5, 2016

Want to Know if the Election was Hacked? Look at the Ballots, by Alex Halderman on Medium, Nov 2016

Uncovering Kris Kobach’s Anti-Voting History, by Lopez and Clark at the Brennan Center for Justice, May 2017

Trump’s “Election Integrity” Commission: Reactions from State Election Officials, Brennan Center for Justice, May 2017

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