Vice President Mike Pence claimed during the first meeting on Wednesday of the White House’s Commission on Election Integrity that the group will go about its work with “no preconceived notions.” Just minutes later, commissioners took turns insisting there is mass fraud across the country that could influence elections.
Kansas Secretary of State and commission co-chair Kris Kobach claimed in his introduction that as many as 18,000 non-citizens could be registered to vote in Kansas, without mentioning the shady math and questionable studies he used to arrive at that number. The Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky insisted that massive fraud is occurring across the country. And even New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Garder, a Democratic commissioner, argued against making voting easier, saying it doesn’t require a massive amount of fraud to influence elections.
One by one, as the commissioners introduced themselves, they made it clear the commission would be laying the groundwork to suppress voters, whether through actions like cross-checking state rolls for duplicates or purging lists of inactive voters.
Kobach outlined the topics he hopes the commission will address, including the accuracy of voter rolls, vote fraud, voting by mail, cybersecurity, and voter intimidation.
President Trump also stopped by the meeting, telling commissioners to keep an “open mind.” But the president suggested that the long list of states refusing to turn over massive amounts of personal voter data to the commission have something to hide.
“One has to wonder what they’re worried about… There’s something. There always is,” Trump said to the commission he created to justify his lie that three to five million people illegally voted last November.
In the first 90 minutes of the meeting, just one commissioner — former Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell — mentioned Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Blackwell’s mention was brief and included in a list of concerns about foreign influence in voting processes.
If voting advocates had any questions about the commissioners’ intentions before Wednesday — though few did — the first meeting solidified that Pence and Kobach are leading an effort to make it harder for eligible Americans to register to vote and cast a ballot.
As the commission met inside the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, advocates protested outside, calling the commission a “scam” set up in order to push for more restrictive voting measures.
“Trump’s, Pence’s and Kobach’s strategy to promote voter restrictions would prevent millions of eligible voters from participating in our democracy. Plain and simple,” Emma Greenman, director of the Voting Rights and Democracy campaign at the Center for Popular Democracy, said in a statement Wednesday. “We need voter protection, not voter suppression.”