Trump's War on Democracy: Hacking the Vote; Rigging the Outcome
May 14, 2017 Ari Berman / The Nation & Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! & Greg Palest / GregPalast.org
Donald Trump has signed an executive order creating a commission on "election integrity," based on his debunked claims that millions voted illegally in 2016. Mike Pence and Kris Kobach are to co-chair the commission. Investigative reporter Greg Palest, says appointing Kobach to the "Voter Integrity Commission," would be "like appointing Al Capone to investigate The Mob." Kobach is the GOP mastermind behind the secretive system that purged 1.1 million citizens from the voter roll in the 2016 election.
Trump's Commission on 'Election Integrity'
Will Lead to Massive Voter Suppression It will be led by Mike Pence and Kris Kobach,
who have a very long history of making it harder to vote Ari Berman / The Nation
(May 11, 2017) -- Two days after firing FBI director James Comey and creating a full-blown constitutional crisis, Donald Trump signed an executive order today creating a presidential commission on "election integrity," based on his debunked claims that millions voted illegally in 2016.
Vice President Mike Pence will be the chair and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach will be the vice chair -- two men with very long histories of making it harder to vote, especially Kobach. Given the lack of evidence of voter fraud, the commission seems designed for one purpose: to perpetuate the myth of fraud in order to lay the groundwork for enacting policies that suppress the vote.
If you want to know what such voter intimidation looks like, take a look at Pence's home state of Indiana, where state police in October 2016 raided the offices of a group working to register African-American and low-income voters. They seized thousands of voter-registration applications, even though only 10 were suspected to be fraudulent and no one has been charged.
In Kansas, Kobach has been the driving force within the GOP behind policies that erect new barriers to the ballot box and the most fervent evangelist of unproven voter-fraud claims.
When Trump tweeted on November 27 that "I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally," White House advisers cited Kobach as a key source of the discredited claim.
When he ran for secretary of state of Kansas in 2010, Kobach alleged that "the illegal registration of alien voters has become pervasive," even though there were only five alleged cases of noncitizens voting in Kansas during the previous 13 years on a report of 221 "incidents" he distributed widely.
That led Kansas to enact a law requiring documentary proof of citizenship to register to vote, such as a birth certificate, a passport, or naturalization papers. Since the law went into effect in 2013, one in seven Kansans who attempted to register have had their registrations held "in suspense" by the state.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit blocked a key part of the law last year, ruling that "there was an almost certain risk that thousands of otherwise qualified Kansans would be unable to vote in November."
According to a 2006 survey by the Brennan Center for Justice, 7 percent of Americans "do not have ready access to citizenship documents," but a much larger number don't carry those documents around with them, which made it impossible for groups like the League of Women Voters to register voters in Kansas.
If Trump followed Kobach's advice and pushed for policies like requiring documentary proof of citizenship for voter registration nationwide, it would have a massively suppressive impact on voting in America.
In 2014, Kobach became the only secretary of state in the country with the power to prosecute voter-fraud cases. Despite his assertion that such fraud occurs with "alarming regularity," he's convicted just nine people out of 1.8 million registered voters in Kansas and successfully prosecuted only one noncitizen for illegally voting.
In a withering editorial last week, the Kansas City Star called Kobach the "Javert of voter fraud," comparing him to the fanatical villain of Les Miserables. "Keep this up, sir, and you may yet prove that of the 1.8 million registered voters in the state, the number of those who have perpetrated this crime is in the double digits."
Just yesterday, as part of a lawsuit by the ACLU challenging Kansas's proof of citizenship law, a federal judge ordered Kobach to produce documents by Friday that he shared with Trump after the election that called for purging the voting rolls and amending the National Voter Registration Act to require proof of citizenship for registration.
When he met with Trump on November 21, Kobach was photographed holding a white paper that advocated for a wish list of radical right-wing policies, including "extreme vetting" and tracking of "all aliens from high-risk areas," reducing the "intake of Syrian refugees to zero," deporting a "record number of criminal aliens in the first year," and the "rapid build" of a wall along the US-Mexico border.
Despite what Trump and his advisers say, all of the evidence shows that voter fraud is a very small problem in American elections. The Washington Post found only four documented casesof voter fraud in 2016 out of 135 million votes cast, equal to 0.000002 percent of total votes.
A state-based review by David Becker of the Center for Election Innovation & Research found at most a few hundred alleged cases of fraud, nowhere near the millions Trump is claiming. There were just 31 credible cases of voter impersonation from 2000 to 2014 out of more than 1 billion votes cast during that time.
During the recount in Michigan, even Trump's lawyers said, "All available evidence suggests that the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake."
Voter suppression is a much bigger problem than voter fraud. The 2016 election was the first in 50 years without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act and fourteen states had new voting restrictions in effect for the first time.
On Tuesday, I wrote about a new study finding that 200,000 votes could've been suppressed by Wisconsin's strict voter-ID law in 2016. In comparison, Wisconsin didn't present a single case of voter impersonation in court that the law would've stopped.
We're at a very dangerous moment for democracy right now, when the core institutions of our democratic system have repeatedly been attacked by the president of the United States.
The director of the FBI was fired; Trump is under FBI investigation; our elections were hacked by a foreign autocracy; judges have been denounced by name; the media is called fake news. And now votes are being suppressed.
Saving American democracy is the most urgent fight of the Trump era.
Ari Berman is a senior contributing writer for The Nation.
(May 12, 2017) -- Voting rights activists are expressing alarm after President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday creating a "Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity." Particularly worrying to voting right activists is the selection of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach as the vice chair of the commission.
Kobach has pushed for the strictest voter identification laws in the country and advocated for a "proof-of-citizenship" requirement at the state and federal levels. For more, we speak with Ari Berman, senior contributing writer for The Nation, where he covers voting rights. His recent piece is headlined "Trump's Commission on 'Election Integrity' Will Lead to Massive Voter Suppression."
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN:Voting rights activists are expressing alarm after President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday creating a Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The move comes after Trump repeatedly claimed that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in November because between 3 [million] and 5 million people voted illegally.
No evidence has ever been presented backing up his claim. On Thursday, Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders unveiled the plan for the new election integrity commission.
DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: I'd like to announce the president also just signed another executive order establishing the bipartisan Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity . . . . The commission will review policies and practices that enhance or undermine the American people's confidence in the integrity of federal elections, and provide the president with a report that identifies system vulnerabilities that lead to improper registrations in voting.
AMY GOODMAN:Civil rights groups and several Democratic lawmakers denounced the election integrity commission, suggesting it's designed to perpetuate the myth of voter fraud as a pretense for new policies that will make it harder to vote -- policies such as voter ID laws, eliminating early voting and prohibiting same-day voter registration.
Particularly worrying to voting right activists is the selection of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach as the vice chair of the commission. Kobach has pushed for the strictest voter identification laws in the country and advocated for a proof-of-citizenship requirement at the state and federal levels.
Meanwhile, a new report has called into question whether President Trump would have actually won Wisconsin during the 2016 presidential election without the state's strict voter ID law.
The study, published by the progressive advocacy group Priorities USA, says the law suppressed the votes of more than 200,000 residents, the majority of whom were African-American and Democratic-leaning. President Trump won only about 23,000 more votes than Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin.
Well, for more, we're joined by Ari Berman, senior contributing writer for The Nation, where he covers voting rights. His recent piece is headlined "Trump's Commission on 'Election Integrity' Will Lead to Massive Voter Suppression." Explain why, Ari.
ARI BERMAN: Well, I think it's -- first off, it's important to note this is not an election integrity commission. This is a voter suppression commission, because there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud to investigate. Everyone who's looked at this, including Trump's own lawyers, during the recounts in Michigan and other states, have said that the election was not tainted by fraud.
So the only reason to do this and the only reason to announce it this week, other than to soothe Trump's ego, other than to distract from the news about Comey and Russia, is to perpetuate the myth of voter fraud in order to lay the groundwork for policies that will suppress the vote.
AMY GOODMAN:So, explain what the commission is all about, how it came about, what its history is and what exactly it's going to do.
ARI BERMAN: So I guess you could say the roots of it happened after the election, when Trump startled everyone by saying that he would have won the popular vote except for the fact that millions of people voted illegally. He has subsequently tweeted this. He subsequently said it. He's provided no evidence for these claims.
And so, it's an attempt -- just like what he said about wiretapping. There was no evidence of it. Then he calls for an investigation. And so, basically, he manufactured this issue. There was no evidence. And now we have an entire presidential commission designed to investigate it. There's going to be taxpayer money. Some of the heaviest hitters in the Republican Party are part of this commission.
And I think it's easy to just dismiss it as another laughable thing that Trump is doing to try to distract from the news, but the real worry here is that they're going to say all of these outlandish things about voter fraud.
It's going to have the veneer of a presidential commission, and then they're going to say, "Oh, by the way, there's all this voter fraud, and now we should pass strict voter ID laws. We should pass proof-of-citizenship laws. We should cut early voting. We should purge the voting rolls. We shouldn't just do it in the states where it's already happening; we should do it on the national and federal level, as well."
So, the president the United States endorsing a policy of voter suppression is absolutely chilling.
AMY GOODMAN:So, as you said, in January, President Trump called for this major investigation of voter fraud, as he continued to falsely assert he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton because 3 [million] to 5 million unauthorized votes were cast in the election. So, ABC anchor David Muir questioned Trump about those claims.
DAVID MUIR: When you say, in your opinion, millions of illegal votes, that is something that is extremely fundamental to our functioning democracy -- a fair and free election.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Sure, sure, sure.
DAVID MUIR: You say you're going to launch an investigation into this.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Sure, done.
DAVID MUIR: What you have presented so far has been debunked. It's been called false.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No, it hasn't. Take a look at the Pew reports.
DAVID MUIR: I called the author of the Pew report last night. And he told me that they found no evidence of voter fraud.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Really? Then why did he write the report?
DAVID MUIR: He said no evidence of voter fraud.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Excuse me. Then why did he write the report?
DAVID MUIR: So, I guess I'm --
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: According to Pew report -- then he's -- then he's groveling again. You know, I always talk about the reporters that grovel when they want to write something that you want to hear, but not necessarily millions of people want to hear or have to hear.
AMY GOODMAN:So that's Donald Trump. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach defended Trump's unfounded claim that millions of people illegally voted, supposedly costing Trump the popular vote. This is Kobach being questioned by reporters.
SECRETARY OF STATE KRIS KOBACH: I think the president-elect is absolutely correct when he says the number of illegal votes cast exceeds the popular vote margin between him and Hillary Clinton at this point.
REPORTER: What tangible evidence is there that that actually happened?
SECRETARY OF STATE KRIS KOBACH:Well, this is the problem with aliens voting and aliens registering. There's no way you can look on the voter rolls and say, "This one's an alien. This one's a citizen. This one's an alien."
You -- once a person gets on the voter rolls, you don't have any way of easily identifying them as aliens. And so you have to rely on post-election studies, like the Cooperative Congressional Election Survey, where you get data from aliens themselves saying, "Oh, yeah, I voted." It does appear that aliens do vote in very large numbers.
AMY GOODMAN:That was Kris Kobach back in November, right after the election. Ari Berman?
ARI BERMAN: So, all of the available evidence shows that voter fraud is a very small problem in American elections, and that noncitizens voting is an even smaller problem in American elections, because just think about it, Amy. If you're a noncitizen and you vote, you're risking deportation.
You're risking a felony. You're risking never being able to vote again if you become a US citizen. So, all of these things are a huge risk to somebody. And people who are here either illegally or here legally but are noncitizens, the last thing they want to do is vote and get deported. So, this doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
Just the numbers that we have show that in the 2016 election, The Washington Post found only four documented cases of voter fraud out of 135 million votes cast. It was 0.000002 percent of total votes. State-based reviews since then have found at most a few hundred alleged cases of voter fraud, not millions.
In Kansas, Kris Kobach is the only secretary of state in the country with the power to prosecute voter fraud cases. He's only convicted nine people of voter fraud since 2014 out of 1.8 million registered voters in that state. He's only convicted one noncitizen of voting. So, if this problem was as widespread --
AMY GOODMAN:Didn't that citizen -- did they vote for Trump?
ARI BERMAN: There was a different noncitizen who voted in Texas, not knowing that she was unable to vote, because usually this is what it is. If you're a noncitizen and you vote, it's usually because you believe you're qualified, because you have documents like a green card or like a driver's license, and you believe that you're part of the political process. And they may ask you at the DMV, "Do you want to register to vote?" And you say, "Yes." But it's nothing nefarious here. There was another case of someone who voted twice in Iowa -- for Donald Trump -- because she believed his claims that the elections were going to be rigged. So, I'm not saying this never happens, but it's a very, very, very small problem. And usually it's human error, not some sort of massive conspiracy underway. Would Trump Have Won Wisconsin
-- or the 2016 Election -- Without
Widespread Voter Suppression? Democracy Now!
(MAY 12, 2017) -- A new report has called into question whether President Trump would have actually won Wisconsin during the 2016 presidential election without the state's strict voter ID law. The study published by the progressive advocacy group Priorities USA says the law suppressed the votes of more than 200,000 residents -- the majority of whom were African-American and Democratic-leaning. President Trump won only about 23,000 more votes than Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin. Democracy Now!
AMY GOODMAN: Last year, Republican Congressman Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin made headlines with his comments about Wisconsin's controversial new voter ID laws, which prevented thousands of registered voters from casting ballots in Wisconsin's primary. Speaking to NBC, Grothman admitted he believed the state's voter ID laws would give the Republican presidential candidate an advantage during the upcoming general election. He was questioned by Charles Benson of NBC.
CHARLES BENSON: Take this forward to November. You know that a lot of Republicans since 1984 in the presidential races have not been able to win in Wisconsin. Why would it be any different for a Ted Cruz or a Donald Trump?
REP. GLENN GROTHMAN: Well, I think Hillary Clinton is about the weakest candidate the Democrats have ever put up. And now we have photo ID, and I think photo ID is going to make a little bit of a difference, as well.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Republican Congressman Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin speaking last year. A new report has called into question whether President Trump would have actually won Wisconsin during the 2016 presidential election without the state's strict voter ID law.
The study was published by the progressive advocacy group Priorities USA. It says the law suppressed the votes of more than 200,000 residents, the majority of whom were African-American and Democratic-leaning. President Trump won only about 23,000 more votes than Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin. Talk about this, Ari.
ARI BERMAN: So I wrote about this study this week. And what they found was that, overall, turnout increased by 1.3 percent in 2016 over 2012. But states that adopted strict voter ID laws, turnout dropped by 1.7 percent. And it dropped in Wisconsin by 3.3 percent, so much greater decrease than the national turnout increase. And what they found, this study, was that 200,000 more people would have voted in Wisconsin if not for their strict voter ID law.
Trump only won the state by 23,000 votes. The largest drop-off was among black and Democratic-leaning voters. So they not only compared Wisconsin to other states, they compared it to states like Minnesota right next door, which have similar demographics and turnout rates, and they found that there was a much larger drop-off in Wisconsin than Minnesota, which does not have a voter ID law, that counties with a large African-American population had a larger drop-off. So this is yet another study showing that voter ID laws suppress the vote.
And my feeling is, these laws are bad regardless of if they impact an election, because we're making it harder to vote for no reason. But in Wisconsin, we have a very clear case study that this law impacted the final results of the presidential election.
AMY GOODMAN: The significance of the timing of the commission, two days after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, and also, you know, you have Pence and Kobach as the heads of it?
ARI BERMAN: Well, clearly, this is an attempt to try to distract from the news. Voter fraud is something that plays to Trump's base. When people were testifying before Congress, FBI experts, they said one of the things the Russians did, one of their, quote, "active measures," in the presidential election was to raise doubts about legitimacy of the election. So, this is something that Trump always dusts off when there's some sort of controversy.
And if you just look at the people who are leading it -- Mike Pence is from Indiana, the first state to adopt a strict voter ID law, which started this whole voter suppression craze. In 2016, the state police in Indiana shut down of voter registration group, raided the office of a group that was registering black and low-income voters, which had a chilling effect on voter registration there.
You look at Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, who's the vice chair of the commission. He is the leading figure within the Republican Party behind voter suppression efforts, behind anti-immigrant efforts. He is a very, very, very powerful, very, very dangerous figure within the Republican Party. Making him the vice chair of this commission shows that it's designed for one purpose, which is to try to suppress the vote. AMY GOODMAN: Very quickly -- we have less than a minute, but the fact that the census director has now quit, can you talk about the significance of this?
ARI BERMAN: It's very significant, because the census determines who is counted, literally, who is counted in terms of congressional -- in terms of congressional representation, who is counted in terms of people getting resources, federal money, government programs.
Often blacks, Latinos, Asian Americans, low-income voters are undercounted already by the census. So if the census has no money, you're going to see a further lessening of representation, a further lessening of minorities, low-income people counting in society. So, it's one of those under-the-radar things that has a big impact on democracy.
AMY GOODMAN: And it determines how many candidates, how many congressmembers represent a state.
ARI BERMAN: Absolutely. It literally determines who is and who isn't counted. So, if the census isn't getting money, if the census director resigns -- and this is all being done in 2020, when there's going to be a whole new round of redistricting after the presidential election -- it's very significant.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Ari Berman, I want to thank you for being with us, senior contributing writer for The Nation, where he covers voting rights. His recent piece, we'll link to, "Trump's Commission on 'Election Integrity' Will Lead to Massive Voter Suppression." Ari Berman is the author of Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America. Trump Picks Al Capone of Vote Rigging to Investigate Federal Voter Fraud Greg Palast / GregPalast.com
(May 13, 2017) -- Kris Kobach was spooning down vanilla ice cream when I showed him the thick pages of evidence documenting his detailed plan to rig the presidential election of 2016.
The Secretary of State of Kansas, sucking up carbs at a Republican Party Fundraiser recognized the documents -- and yelled at me, "YOU'RE A LIAR!" then ran for it while still trying to wolf down the last spoonful.
But documents don't lie.
That was 2015 (yes, the ballot heist started way back). Today this same man on the run, Kris Kobach, is now Donald Trump's choice to head the new "Voter Integrity Commission."
It's like appointing Al Capone to investigate The Mob.
How did Kobach mess with the 2016 vote? Let me count the ways -- as I have in three years of hunting down Kobach's ballot-box gaming for Rolling Stone and Al Jazeera.
Just two of Kobach's vote-bending tricks undoubtedly won Michigan for Trump and contributed to his "wins" in Ohio, North Carolina and Arizona.
First, Interstate Crosscheck.
Kobach is the GOP mastermind behind this secretive system which purged 1.1 million Americans from the voter rolls.
When Trump said, "This election's rigged," the press ignored the second part of his statement: "People are voting many, many times." Trump cited three million votes illegally cast.
The White House said Trump got this information from Kobach. Indeed, it specifically comes from a list of 7 million names -- or, as Kobach describes it, a list of 3.5 million "potential double voters." How did Kobach find these three million double voters?
He matched their names, first and last. And that's it.
Here's an unedited screen-shot of a segment of his list:
James Edward Harris Jr. of Richmond, Virginia, is supposed to be the same voters as James R. Harris (no Jr.) of Indianapolis, Indiana. Really? Note that not one middle name matches.
And here's the ugly part. Both James Harris (in fact, hundreds of them) are subject to getting scrubbed off the voter rolls.
And these are Kobach's lists, tens of thousands of names I showed Kobach, falsely accused of the crime of double voting.
And that's why Kobach was stunned and almost dropped his vanilla, because he and his GOP colleagues kept the lists of the accused strictly confidential. (The first of the confidential lists was obtained by our investigative photojournalist, Zach D. Roberts, through legal methods -- though howling voting officials want them back.)
In all, about 1.1 million voters on that list have been scrubbed already -- and they don't know it. They show up to vote and they're name has simply vanished. Or, the voter is marked "inactive." "Crosscheck" is not marked on the victim voter's record. It's a stealth hit.
And it's deadly. Doubtless, Crosscheck delivered Michigan to Trump who supposedly "won" the state by 10,700 votes. The Secretary of State's office proudly told me that they were "very aggressive" in removing listed voters before the 2016 election. Kobach, who created the lists for his fellow GOP officials, tagged a whopping 417,147 in Michigan as potential double voters.
And not just any voters. Mark Swedlund, a database expert who advises companies such as Amazon and eBay on how not to mis-match customers was "flabbergasted" to discover in his team's technical analysis, that the list was so racially biased that fully one in six registered African-Americans were tagged in the Crosscheck states that include the swing states of Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, Arizona and more.
The effect goes way beyond the Trump v. Clinton count. I spoke to several of the targeted voters on the list in Georgia's Sixth Congressional district where the Democratic candidate fell just short of the margin to win a special election. Especially hard hit in the northern Atlanta suburbs were Korean-Americans, like Mr. Sung Park, who found he was tagged as voting in two states in 2012 simply because he had a name that is as common in Korea as James Brown.
And Kobach, in fact, tagged 288 men in Georgia named James Brown on his Crosscheck blacklist.
As Crosscheck spreads -- and it was just signed into law in New Hampshire in the last days of a lame-duck Republican governorship -- it will undoubtedly poison the count in the fight for Congress in 2018.
And if Crosscheck isn't enough to scare you, Kobach is also pushing Trump to require voters to prove their citizenship.
At first blush, it seems right to demand people prove they are US citizens to vote. But here's the rub: We are not Red China and don't carry citizenship cards. Resident Aliens holding Green Cards have, indeed are required to have, Social security cards and drivers' licenses, if they drive or work.
The readiest proof of citizenship is a passport. And what is the color of the typical passport holder, their income -- and the color of their vote?
The other form of proof, besides naturalization papers, is your original birth certificate.
And there's the rub: the poor, minorities and especially new young voters do not have easy access to a passport or their birth certificates. Kobach took his citizenship proof requirement out for a test drive in Kansas. The result: 36,000 young voters were barred from voting . . . that is, until a federal judge, citing the National Voter Registration Act, told Kobach that unless he could produce even one alien among those 36,000, she was ordering him to let them vote.
Kobach's response: a private meeting with Trump at Trump Tower where he proposed changing the Act.
All of this to eliminate a crime which does not occur. Besides Trump's claims of alien voters swimming the Rio Grande to vote for Hillary, I have found only two verified cases of votes cast by aliens in the US in the last decade. (One, an Austrian who confessed to voting for Jeb Bush in Florida.)
Don't laugh. The threat of "alien voters" -- long a staple claim by Kobach on his appearances on Fox TV -- will be the Kobach Commission's hammer to smash the National Voter Registration Act's protections. Based on the numbers from Kansas, and its overwhelming effect on young -- read "Democratic" -- voters, this shift alone could swing the election of 2018.
Indeed, Kobach's Crosscheck con together with his "alien" voter attack, could mean the choice of the electorate in 2020 may already be trumped.
Greg Palast (Rolling Stone, Guardian, BBC) is the author of The New York Times bestsellers, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Billionaires & Ballot Bandits, now out as major non-fiction movie.
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