Archive for the 'Pence Commission' Category

The Pence-Kobach Commission just conducted its first public hearing, and its leadership may have hoped to use the occasion to recover a degree of credibility or measure of respectability for its operations. If that was the plan, it did not work out well. The Vice Chair Kobach started the day in retreat from claims, published the Friday before, about illegal voting in the last New Hampshire Senate election. This is the latest example of his utter disregard of the facts and appetite for sweeping, false claims that have been enough to disqualify him as a serious participant in the national discussion of voting rights.It certainly makes a mockery of his leadership of a presidential Commission supposedly conducting an impartial inquiry into the risks of illegal voting.

Then the Campaign Legal Center released an informative email that it obtained by FOIA request to the Department of Justice for materials relating allegations of voting fraud in the 2016 election. An employee of the Heritage Foundation, whose identity was redacted, complained to DOJ about the inclusion in the Commission of any Democrats or “mainstream” Republicans. The author protested that Democrats would only obstruct a productive inquiry, and that “mainstream” Republicans and “academics” would be useless. The author admonishes the Administration to think twice about its embrace of bipartisanship and to consult with the Heritage experts who know something.

The email was sent in February of this year. In June, President Trump appointed one of these Heritage experts, Hans Von Spakovsky, to the Commission. It turns out that Von Spakovsky also wrote the email, a fact now confirmed by Heritage but originally denied by Von Spakovsky in response to an inquiry from ProPublica.

So the Administration chose to appoint to the Commission an individual who strongly objected to a bipartisan inquiry but also to a formal role for social scientists trained in data collection and dispassionate analysis. The story should not end there.

In apparent haste, with not all its members appointed, the President issued the executive order establishing the Pence vote fraud Commission. The appointments still to come will add only marginally to an understanding of this Commission’s objectives. As the Order is written, and with the naming of Kansas Secretary of State Kobach as Vice Chair, those objectives are clear, and the outcome not hard to forecast. And yet there are extraordinary features to the Commission, none of them surprising, and none are the result of error or lack of foresight.

Begin with the leadership:

The Chair is the Vice President of the President who has announced that millions of illegal votes were cast in the last election, all against him (or for his opponent). Now Mr. Kobach, as Vice Chair, has joined the leadership ranks as a public supporter of the President’s claims.  He has said that the “White House has provided enormous evidence with respect to voter fraud.” This is untrue.   As for the problem of non-citizen voting, Kobach has asserted that there is a “lot of evidence” of it. This is also untrue. The larger point is that the Vice Chair of the Commission has reached these conclusions long ago, before a day of testimony or an hour of deliberation. What are the chances that this Commission will arrive at judgments contrary to the ones asserted so confidently by the President--and echoed by Mr. Kobach whose bid for national prominence rests on loudly ringing the alarm about voter fraud?

Now, onto the Commission's purposes:

Responses to a Pence Commission on Voter Fraud

February 15, 2017
posted by Bob Bauer

There seems to be a question of whether the media should provide platforms for Administration spokespersons who regularly use the airtime to disseminate falsehoods. “Truth matters,” Margaret Sullivan writes, and she worries that viewers will come away misled, as some might have last Sunday after Stephen Miller’s appearance in which he repeated the charge of “serious” voter fraud. But Sullivan misses the point that the Administration should be given every opportunity to say what it will on this subject (and others). We might regret that some in the audience, predisposed to believe these claims, may mistake them for facts. But Miller, following Trump, is helping, by speaking, to clarify the nature of this initiative, and it is important that it be understood.

One consequence of clear understanding will be the disinclination of true experts to participate in this process. Few with credibility will be anxious to sign up to validate the work of a Commission launched to validate a conclusion already reached. And, as Miller made clear, this conclusion rests on what “everyone”--at least everyone in New Hampshire--knows. It is hard to imagine who will take this “everyone knows” school of election administration seriously and risk their reputations by enrolling in it.

In the normal case, when a Commission-in-the-making is virtually founded on the rejection of expertise, its bid for respectability would be a long shot. But when its political purpose is plain, because it is the creation of candidates pursuing their own self-interest, it has no hope. The President’s staunchest political allies might stay with him on this, and he can count on groups that thrive on allegations of fraud. In the wider world of administrators and experts, both Democratic and Republican, the prospects of having to engage with this Commission will inspire dread.

This leaves members of this community with a couple of choices.