Kobach Responsible for Thousands of Minority Voters Declared Ineligible
A journalist who exposed a GOP strategy that purged 1.1 million American voters from the rolls before the 2016 presidential election says Donald Trump’s pick of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to co-chair a presidential voter fraud panel was like “appointing Al Capone to investigate the Mob.”
Independent journalist Greg Palast examined Kobach’s role in “Interstate Crosscheck,” a Republican initiative that compared voter lists among various states and led to tens of thousands of minority voters to be declared ineligible to vote in 2016.
“Just two of Kobach’s vote-bending tricks undoubtedly won Michigan for Trump and contributed to his ‘wins’ in Ohio, North Carolina and Arizona,” Palast wrote in a May 12 article for the progressive website, alternet.org.
On May 11, Donald Trump signed an executive order creating the “Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.”’
History of voter suppression
Kobach, who has pushed voter ID laws in Kansas that critics claim suppress minority voting, and Vice President Mike Pence, whose state of Indiana was the first in 2005 to require voter IDs, will co-chair the panel. In Kansas, Kobach’s policies have tended to keep younger Democratic or Independent voters and minority voters off the rolls, while favoring white Republican voters – to the benefit of the state’s GOP incumbents.
The presidential panel is charged with examining Trump’s claim of massive voter fraud in 2016. His executive order creating the commission defines “improper voting” as voting in more than one state or as votes cast by undocumented immigrants.
“In addition to focusing on voter fraud, and election irregularities, the commission will also be looking at the claims of voter suppression, claims that certain laws depress turnout, things like that,” Kobach told CNN.
Trump panel’s true purpose
Palast wrote that “the threat of ‘alien voters’ – long a staple claim by Kobach on his appearances on Fox TV – will be the Kobach Commission’s hammer” to smash voter protections guaranteed by the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, the so-called “Motor Voter” act that allows people to register to vote through state motor vehicle offices.
Palast isn’t the only one concerned about the actual purpose of the Trump panel.
On May 17, Ari Berman, a senior contributing writer for The Nation magazine and author of the book, “Give Us The Ballot: The Modern Struggle For Voting Rights In America,” told NPR host Terry Gross that the voter integrity panel could have a “chilling effect” on minority voting by requiring documentation that many minority voters don’t have.
“By keeping alive this idea of widespread voter fraud, that millions of people voted illegally or that the election was somehow tainted by illegal voting, Republicans can then build support for putting in place policies that make it harder for certain people to vote,” including requirements that they produce original birth certificates or passports,” Berman said.
“So I think keeping alive this idea of voter fraud in many ways is a pretext for the real agenda, which is putting in place policies that restrict access to the ballot,” Berman said.
In his Alternet.org piece, Palast gets at what he believes is the basis of Trump’s unsubstantiated and widely ridiculed claim that there were 3 million fraudulent votes cast in the 2016 presidential election.
“When Trump said, ‘This election’s rigged,’ the press ignored the second part of his statement: ‘People are voting many, many times,’” Palast wrote.
“The White House said Trump got this information from Kobach. Indeed, it specifically comes from a list of 7 million names – or, as Kobach describes it, a list of 3.5 million ‘potential double voters.’”
How was Kobach was able to find 3 million double voters?
“He matched their names, first and last,” Palast wrote.
“And that’s it.”
How ‘Interstate Crosscheck’ worked
In the “Interstate Crosscheck” initiative, Palast noted that people in different states with the same first and last names but different middle names or middle initials were counted as being the same people – meaning they placed on a list of people suspected of voting more than once in multiple states.
“So, a James Edward Harris Jr. of Richmond, Virginia, is supposed to be the same voter as James R. Harris (no Jr.) of Indianapolis, Indiana,” Palast wrote.
Using the list, Republican secretaries of state scrubbed those people from the voter rolls, Palast wrote.
In his piece, Palast quoted Mark Swedlund, a database expert who advises companies such as Amazon and eBay on how not to mismatch customers.
In the piece, Swedlund said he was “flabbergasted” to discover in his team’s technical analysis of the Interstate Crosscheck result, that the list was racially biased, and that a significant number of African-Americans were tagged as double voters in the swing 2016 states of Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina and Arizona.
“In all, about 1.1 million voters on that list have been scrubbed already — and they don’t know it. They show up to vote and they’re name has simply vanished,” Palast wrote. “Or, the voter is marked ‘inactive.’”