Trump’s ‘election integrity’ experts ignore actual election fraud in North Carolina

The Pence-led group found no proof of widespread voter fraud, but seems unconcerned by actual Republican election fraud.

President Donald Trump, then-Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach (R) Vice President Mike Pence during the first meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity in July 2017.
President Donald Trump, then-Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach (R) Vice President Mike Pence during the first meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity in July 2017. CREDIT: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The bipartisan North Carolina Board of Elections unanimously ordered a new election on Thursday in the unsettled North Carolina 9th congressional district midterm race, after finding widespread election fraud by the campaign of Republican nominee and anti-LGBTQ pastor Mark Harris.

But Republican voter suppression activists who President Donald Trump gathered early in his term to ensure “election integrity” have apparently nothing much to say about the first “do over” of a congressional election since 1975.

Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity was appointed in May 2017 in an attempt to prove the president’s unfounded allegations that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election and that every single one of those voters had supported Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton over him.

In addition to Vice President Mike Pence, Trump recruited a who’s who of conservative voter fraud conspiracy theorists and voter suppression advocates, including Vice Chair and then Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R). Pence and Kobach ensured that the small number of Democrats appointed to the panel were excluded from joining in the commission’s reindeer games, and they actually had to sue to access the information the panel was collecting. In the end, the group was disbanded in early 2018 having failed to find proof of widespread voter fraud.

But unlike the sort of fraud Kobach and many of the other the Republican commissioners pretend plagues America’s democracy — huge numbers of non-citizens voting each year and people showing up at the polls without identification to impersonate their neighbors and vote on their behalf — the North Carolina scandal was something quite different: election fraud.


Staffers working for Mark Harris’ campaign apparently illegally collected absentee ballots from voters, threw away ones marked for his opponent, and filled in unmarked ones as votes for Harris. In doing so, these Republican operatives took the legitimate right to vote away from actual citizen voters, effectively stealing their ballots.

Two commission Republicans — Kobach and former Federal Election Commissioner Hans von Spakovsky — suggested after the scandal was first reported in December that the North Carolina 9th district troubles proved what they’ve been saying all along about voter fraud. “It is ironic that North Carolina is one of the states where the left has vehemently opposed voter ID, which is just one of many reforms that are needed to secure elections,” von Spakovsky and a Heritage Foundation colleague wrote in the Daily Signal.

But a ThinkProgress review of their Twitter feeds and those of other Republican commissioners found they have been uncharacteristically silent about this week’s North Carolina election fraud hearings.

Pence’s official vice presidential feed has made no mention of North Carolina this month, aside from a brief eulogy to deceased Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC). Kobach posted Fox appearances in which he discussed the tragic 2018 Parkland shooting and the need for Trump’s border wall.

Van Spakovsky tweeted a Washington Examiner article on Thursday casting doubt on the credibility of former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe. Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson tweeted information about her office’s INBiz online system. Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell re-tweeted Trump statements about cellphone speeds, a Family Research Council tweet opposing abortion, and stories critical of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Election Assistance Commission member Christy McCormick does not appear to have a public Twitter account but has said nothing on her blog.

Trump himself also has said nothing on the matter, while tweeting about myriad other topics.

The only mention of the case appears to have come from Republican election lawyer J. Christian Adams. After reading that his former fellow commission member Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlop (D) penned a Washington Post op-ed on Wednesday titled “Why doesn’t the ‘voter fraud’ crowd care about what happened in North Carolina?” Adams scolded Dunlop via Tweet.

But study after study has found that voter fraud is mythical, and that a person is more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit it.


North Carolina illustrated that there are real threats to election integrity in America — but when it does not fit the narrative that fraudulent voters are turning out in droves to elect Democrats, the people who were ostensibly tasked with addressing those threats seem to have little interest.