President Trump’s commission to determine the extent of voter fraud across the country has met with serious backlash, some warranted, from state officials across the country, with a large majority refusing to comply with the commission’s data requests. Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan made news, not so much because she joined the growing chorus of dissenters, but because of her about-face after initially agreeing to assist the commission.
The president formed the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity to investigate his claim, which he tweeted out last November, that “millions” of votes were illegally cast, costing him the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election. Now, many people immediately saw this as an example of the hyperbole that has come to be expected from Trump.
However, such criticisms miss the point that there have been multiple examples of localized voter fraud in recent years, such as dead people voting in Colorado last election, and people who are in the country illegally voting in Virginia.
In an update of a 2014 study, political scientist Jesse Richman of Old Dominion University took the results of opt-in online surveys of voter behavior and extrapolated that more than 800,000 votes nationally could be been cast by noncitizens.
Now this is not “millions,” but it does show, along with the other stories, that there is some basis for establishing a national, comprehensive study of voting practices to ensure a faithful election process.
The commission had sent a letter to all 50 states asking for names, addresses, birth dates and party affiliations of registered voters in each state. It also sought felony convictions, military status, the last four digits of Social Security numbers and voting records dating to 2006.
On the surface that doesn’t seem to be such a big deal, and as of last Friday, Reagan appeared to have agreed, saying that Arizona would hand over the requested data, withholding only the voters’ birth dates and partial Social Security numbers.
In a statement released Monday evening, the state reversed course citing serious privacy concerns, with Reagan intimating the request for such extensive voter information is not in the state’s best interest. What could be more in the state’s interests then ensuring the sanctity of the vote? And what could have compelled the secretary to suddenly change course?
Apparently the change of heart was compelled by a flood of correspondence to her office, with constituents decrying the invasion of privacy. Many of those letters to the secretary also chafed at the idea of surrendering the requested personal data for what they feel is a nonexistent threat.
As was previously stated though, there is ample evidence of voter fraud, the only question is whether it’s “widespread,” something, that like everything else, is a relative term. The truth is, there has never been a comprehensive, national study of the matter. Those who say there doesn’t need to be any such study conducted, on the basis that the president’s claims are outlandish, are being flippant with something that should concern us all.
Secretary Reagan stated that because there is nothing in the executive order, nor federal law, giving the commission authority to “unilaterally acquire and disseminate such sensitive information,” the state would refuse the request. However, it seems her rejection was for political reasons rather than any actual legal one; otherwise why not just say that to begin with?
The commission’s work is worthwhile, given that voter fraud does occasionally occur. Surely the states can find a reasonable way to work with the commission in such a way that privacy concerns are addressed, but where the sanctity of the vote can be definitively affirmed.