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How many people actually cast illegal votes? E-mail
Opinion
Thursday, 18 May 2017 08:02


A SECOND OPINION, The Topeka Capital-Journal



Even though Donald Trump defied the pollsters and pundits, flummoxed the political establishment in Washington and shocked the world when he won the presidency, he still wasn't satisfied. Hillary Clinton received almost 3 million more votes than he did, which meant he didn't have the sweeping mandate he was so eager to boast about. But he had an explanation: "In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally."

This wasn't just a one-off tweet. Days after Trump was sworn in, he told congressional leaders that he only lost the popular vote because 3 million to 5 million illegal votes had been cast. He didn't cite any studies or offer anything resembling evidence — he just knew that the number of illegal votes had to be higher than the gap between him and Clinton.

Trump's claim was almost universally pilloried, and many Republicans were among his critics. House Speaker Paul Ryan said there was "no evidence" that widespread voter fraud tainted the election. Sen. Lindsey Graham urged the president to either "share with us the information you have about this or please stop saying it." But Secretary of State Kris Kobach described Trump's ludicrous assertion as a reasonable estimate: "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." Again, no evidence was provided.

On Thursday, Trump appointed Kobach vice chairman of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. According to Trump's executive order, the commission will identify "vulnerabilities in voting systems and practices used for federal elections that could lead to improper voter registrations and improper voting, including fraudulent voter registration and fraudulent voting." Considering Kobach's record in Kansas, Americans should be extremely suspicious of his role in an effort to investigate voter fraud at the national level.

Kansas has among the most restrictive voting laws in the country, and Kobach is the only secretary of state with the power to prosecute voter fraud. In the 23 months since the Legislature granted Kobach this authority, he has convicted eight people of double-voting and a single person of voting before becoming a naturalized citizen (only 4,999,999 to go). These insignificant numbers aren't surprising — between 1995 and 2013, a total of three noncitizens were proven to have voted in federal elections in Kansas.

Kobach's convictions are negligible compared with the huge cost of his fixation on voter fraud. Last year, the state's rigid voter ID mandate kept more than 17,000 Kansans off the voter rolls because they didn't present a birth certificate, naturalization papers or a passport when they registered at Department of Motor Vehicles offices. This requirement has been repeatedly challenged in federal and district court, and Kobach can't seem to win a case (he was ultimately ordered to allow the 17,000 Kansans to vote in local, state and federal elections).

Trump and Kobach are uniquely unqualified to secure the "integrity" of American elections. They both have obvious incentives to report vast, unchecked fraud in the country. They've both made hysterical, unfounded claims about "millions of people who voted illegally." And they both care more about a fictional crisis than the disenfranchisement of U.S. citizens.

 

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