President Donald Trump’s Commission on Election Integrity officially began its work Wednesday, and early signs were not encouraging.
The group was formed after the president alleged “millions” of people cast illegal votes last November, costing him a popular vote victory.
Most Americans know the claim is preposterous. We expect the commission to spend the next several months and plenty of taxpayer dollars confirming that understanding.
Republicans and Democrats have roundly criticized the commission’s request for voter data, calling it an unnecessary intrusion into the administration of voter rolls.
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Lawsuits have been filed, at least one seeking to keep the commission’s work open to the public.
And there are serious concerns about some members of the commission. The group includes Hans von Spakovsky, once accused by 20 members of the U.S. House of doing “irreparable damage to the course of democracy and voting rights all over the United States.”
Well-known election law expert Rick Hasen called von Spakovsky the nation’s “worst vote suppressor.”
On Wednesday, von Spakovsky said criticism of the commission has been “unfair, unjust and unwarranted.”
The commission’s vice chairman and de facto leader is Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, whose quixotic search for virtually nonexistent voter fraud has alternately frustrated and amused Kansans for years.
Vice President Mike Pence introduced Kobach at the start of Wednesday’s session, calling him a man “whose long service has established him as a national leader on election integrity.”
If that’s a reflection of the commission’s potential judgment, its findings will justifiably gather dust on a long-forgotten shelf.
In his opening remarks, Kobach repeatedly referred to the possibility of voter fraud in Kansas and the United States. He suggested a need to purge duplicate registrants across the country without offering evidence of widespread double-voting.
Yet Kobach made no mention of the dangers of voter suppression or the possible denial of access to the ballot.
The other members of the commission must resist efforts by Kobach or any other member to hijack its work for partisan purposes.
There are notable problems with voting in the U.S., including confusing registration requirements, antiquated machinery and contradictory ballot-counting standards. A serious look at those issues — and an effort to expand voting to every qualified American — would be welcome.
We hope the commission will pursue that agenda in the months to come.
To accomplish that, it must drop any effort to “prove” Trump won the popular vote. On that score, comments from some members were on point.
“I listened very closely to the remarks of the president,” said commissioner Matthew Dunlap, the Democratic secretary of state in Maine. “No one that’s spoken, including the president, has questioned the legitimacy of the outcome of the 2016 election. I think that’s a great place to start from.”
Indeed it is.