Right-Wing Media Turn To Misinformers, Hacks, And Extremists To Defend Trump's Voter Suppression Commission

››› ››› JULIE ALDERMAN

Following President Donald Trump’s announcement that he is setting up a commission to review voter fraud allegations -- which experts have decried as a pathway for voter suppression -- right-wing media repeatedly hosted and quoted guests to promote the commission and Trump’s (false) allegations of fraud. These guests and sources are noted liars, nativists, and extremists.

Trump Launches Voter Fraud Commission

Trump Creates Commission “To Review Alleged Voter Fraud.” The Associated Press (AP) reported that President Donald Trump signed an executive order “launching a commission to review alleged voter fraud and voter suppression, building upon his unsubstantiated claims that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election.” The AP reported that the commission, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach as vice chair, “would examine allegations of improper voting and fraudulent voter registration in states and across the nation.” From the May 12 report:

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday launching a commission to review alleged voter fraud and voter suppression, building upon his unsubstantiated claims that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election.

The White House said the president’s “Advisory Commission on Election Integrity” would examine allegations of improper voting and fraudulent voter registration in states and across the nation. Vice President Mike Pence will chair the panel and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach will be vice chair of the commission, which will report back to Trump by 2018. [The Associated Press, 5/12/17]

Journalists And Experts Decry The Commission As A Path To Voter Suppression

Journalists And Experts Slam The Commission As A Pathway For Voter Suppression. Journalists and voting experts criticized Trump’s commission. Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice, called the commission “a sham and distraction.” The Nation’s Ari Berman warned, “The commission seems designed for one purpose: to perpetuate the myth of fraud in order to lay the groundwork for enacting policies that suppress the vote.” Washington Post columnist Paul Waldman claimed, “The purpose of this commission is to provide ammunition for Republican efforts at the state and federal level to suppress the votes of Democrats.” [Brennan Center for Justice, 5/11/17; The Nation, 5/11/17; The Washington Post, 5/11/17]

Right-Wing Media Highlight Hacks, Misinformers, And Extremists To Defend The Commission And Push Claims Of Widespread Voter Fraud

Kris Kobach

James O’Keefe

J. Christian Adams

Kris Kobach

KOBACH APPEARED ON A VARIETY OF CONSERVATIVE MEDIA PLATFORMS TO PROMOTE THE COMMISSION AND CLAIMS OF VOTER FRAUD

Kobach: “We Do Have A Great Deal Of Evidence” That Voter Fraud Exists. Appearing on the May 12 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who also serves as the vice chair of Trump’s new commission, said that “we do have a great deal of evidence about people voting in the more than one state in the same election,” as well as “noncitizens who may be registered” to vote. Kobach also defended the necessity of the commission, stating, “Voter fraud can affect any jurisdiction, any part of the country.” From the May 12 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): Kris, I guess you knew this announcement was coming. The president knows that's one of your passions. Where do you start? Who else is on this commission?

KRIS KOBACH: Well, this commission is going to have roughly a dozen members. About half of them have been announced already. It’s got five secretaries of state, or former secretaries of state. People with a lot of expertise on the issues of elections and election integrity in systems. It's a bipartisan commission. And where do you start? You start where the evidence is, the data that we have. So, we do have a great deal of evidence about people voting in more than one state in the same election. We do have a lot of evidence about noncitizens -- the federal government has that evidence, about noncitizens who may be registered. But now we start, actually, digging into the facts and see just how widespread various forms of voter fraud are.

KILMEADE: And do you go in with a hunch that you're going to find a lot, there’s a lot to be fixed? Because some say people who bring that up just don't want minorities voting.

KOBACH: I think that's a ridiculous argument. Look, voter fraud can affect any jurisdiction, any part of the country. And, no, we don't go in with a assumption about what we're going to find. This commission is going in with an open mind. Let's just find what the facts are, find what the numbers are and put them on the table. I know a lot about voter fraud that has occurred in Kansas because we've seen, for example, 125 specific individuals who are noncitizens, who got on our voter rolls or attempted to get on our voter rolls. So I know what's going on in my state. But I don't know what's going on in the other 49 states. So this commission will gather national level data and present it to the public. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/12/17]

Kobach: “I Have Seen … Many Cases Of Voter Fraud” In Kansas Alone. During an appearance on Sean Hannity's radio program, The Sean Hannity Show, Kobach claimed that he had “seen … many cases of voter fraud” in Kansas alone. Kobach promoted the commission, saying Trump’s executive order “does something that’s never really been done before and that is establishing national nationwide entity to collect data on the issue of voter fraud and election integrity.” From the May 11 edition of Premiere Radio Networks’ The Sean Hannity Show:

SEAN HANNITY (HOST): So tell us about the executive order that establishes the presidential advisory commission on election integrity.

KRIS KOBACH: So what this order does is something that’s never really been done before and that is establishing national nationwide entity to collect data on the issue of voter fraud and election integrity. I have seen examples and many cases of voter fraud in Kansas and that’s one of the reasons we adopted photo ID laws and proof of citizenship laws. But I only see what’s in my state, and other secretaries of state and election officials only see what’s in their state, and this commission will gather data on a nationwide level and present facts to inform the debate and inform the public of how big this problem is, what the numbers are, and people can draw their conclusions and we’ll go where the facts lead us.

HANNITY: OK, but this goes back to many elections. Remember the case in Philly at the polling place and you’ve got guys with batons and whatever came of that? Nothing.

KOBACH: Yeah. That was an voter intimidation case, and the Bush Justice Department started the process of prosecuting it and, as you’re well aware, the Obama Justice Department dropped the case when they came in.

[...]

KOBACH: We’re going to be looking, in this commission, at the hard facts of the cases. For example, one thing that’s never been done before, and we have asked, in Kansas we asked the Obama administration, “Can we please bounce our voter rolls against the list of known aliens in the United States. The federal government knows of millions of legally present aliens who have green cards and temporary visas. We’ve never been given any access to that information to see how many of those people happened to be registered in Kansas or happen to be registered in you name the state. And for the first time, we’ll be able to do that and we’ll have some hard numbers. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Sean Hannity Show, 5/11/17]

Kobach: “We Have Proven” That Widespread Voter Fraud Exists. During an appearance on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight, Kobach asserted that “we have proven” that widespread voter fraud exists, adding, “We’ve proven it in courts.” Kobach also claimed that the commission would “provide facts that will shed light on the subject and give greater confidence to our system.” From the May 11 edition of Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight:

TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): How are you going to determine the level of voter fraud? This is a controversial subject. Others have tried. How are you going to get to the truth?

KRIS KOBACH: Well, I just want to say first of all it’s not just the 2016 election. It's voter fraud more broadly and it’s all forms of it, and also things like allegations of voter suppression. We’re looking at all of the voting irregularities that affect the integrity of our election. So, to answer your question, there are lots of things we can look at. You can look at individual cases that states have of people convicted, or cases where there’s credible evidence of voter fraud. You can look at databases, and this is the first of its kind nationwide effort to actually look at all 50 states. So, I know I'm very familiar with what's going on in Kansas in cases we have presented to federal courts in defending our group of citizenship system. But I don't know what's going on in the other 49 states. So we’ll bring evidence from all 50 states and we’ll also look at some of the federal government's facts and data that they can provide as well.

CARLSON: But how are you going to find if it doesn't exist? We know for a fact, because we hear it every day in the media, it's like the yeti, it’s a figment of your imagination, voter fraud has never occurred in America. So how do you hope to prove otherwise?

KOBACH: We have proven it. We've proven it in courts. I’m the only secretary of state who has the authority to prosecute voter fraud directly. We just prosecuted our ninth case a few weeks ago in the last year and a half. And the Heritage Foundation has a database of more than 700 convictions for voter fraud. But here's another way you can do it, and this is never been done before. The federal government has a database of every known alien who has a green card or a temporary visa. States have in the past asked, can we please run our voter rolls against a database and see if any of those aliens are on our voter rolls? The federal government has already said -- always said no. Well, now we’re going to be able to run that database against one or two states and see how many people are known aliens residing in the United States and also on the voter rolls. That's never been done before.

CARLSON: If the federal government wouldn’t allow the states to check the integrity of their voter rolls, that suggest to me they wanted voter fraud to occur. What’s the other explanation?

KOBACH: There were bureaucratic explanations that this would be too difficult. Our computer systems -- this is the federal government talking --our computer system isn't set up for the way the state wants to do this data check. But bottom line is it can be done and this is one of the things the commission will do is try to get some hard facts out there. We already have a lot of data, but let's get more data and let people draw their own conclusions.

CARLSON: So, really quickly, why would anybody be against ensuring the integrity of elections?

KOBACH: That's a great question. You think about it, the integrity and the fairness of our elections is at the very core of our -- it’s at the very foundation of our republic. If we don't have fair elections, how can we as a country have confidence in our system? How can you have loyal opposition? How can I, as an elected official, be confident that I really won the election or really lost the election?

CARLSON: Right.

KOBACH: You have to have that. You have to have it. And this will hopefully provide facts that will shed light on the subject and give greater confidence to our system and also make some recommendations. Here are some vulnerabilities we see in some states. Here are some recommendations, and let the states decide. [Fox News, Tucker Carlson Tonight, 5/11/17]

KOBACH IS A NATIVIST EXTREMIST WHO HAS LED VOTER DISENFRANCHISEMENT EFFORTS

Kobach’s Secure And Fair Elections Act Disenfranchised Thousands Of Voters In Kansas. Kobach was the architect of the Secure and Fair Elections Act (SAFE), which, according to CNN, disenfranchised about 18,000 people “who registered at a department of motor vehicles office but did not provide the identification required by Kansas law.” The Kansas City Star reported that a draft report by the Kansas Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights stated that SAFE “may have been written and implemented with improper, discriminatory intent.” [The Kansas City Star, 2/6/17; CNN, 5/18/16]

SPLC: “Nativist Lawyer Kris Kobach” Is “‘Of Counsel’ At The Immigration Reform Law Institute, The Legal Arm Of FAIR.” The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) criticized Kobach in 2012 for his work with the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI), which is the “legal arm of” the racist Federation of American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a recognized hate group since 2007. The SPLC also noted that, among other transgressions, FAIR has “taken money from a foundation described as ‘neo-Nazi.’” From the February 23, 2012, article:

Anti-immigrant law drafter extraordinaire Kris Kobach continues to play dumb about the racist organization bankrolling his efforts, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), and its founder John Tanton. In a piece published by Salon yesterday, Kobach, who is also the Kansas secretary of state, was quoted claiming that he is “not familiar with [Tanton’s] writings or his views.” He also said: “I have not done any legal work for any organization that expresses or supports racial discrimination, nor will I ever do so in the future. ”

Really, Kris?

Kobach is “of counsel” at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, the legal arm of FAIR, which the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) lists as a hate group. The reasons are multiple: FAIR has taken money from a foundation described as “neo-Nazi”; the group has employed and put on its boards members of hate groups; and its president, Dan Stein, has said that many immigrants hate America. Stein has also attacked the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act, which ended years of racist immigration quotas, as retaliation “against Anglo-Saxon dominance.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2/23/12]

Kobach Created A Muslim-Registry System. As MSNBC reported, Kobach helped draft the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) when he worked for the Justice Department under then-President George W. Bush, which “targeted people from 25 countries that were considered ‘higher risk’ of extremist activity” and subjected them to “intense interrogations.” Additionally, MSNBC noted, “An earlier iteration asked for Muslims to come forward and identify themselves, provide fingerprints and personal information.” [MSNBC, 11/17/16]

For more information about Kris Kobach, click here.

James O’Keefe

RIGHT-WING OUTLETS CITE O’KEEFE’S VOTER FRAUD CLAIMS TO HYPE TRUMP’S COMMISSION

WND: O’Keefe “Published Video Evidence Of Voter Fraud.” WND cited the work of self-described “guerrilla journalist” James O’Keefe, saying he “published video evidence of voter fraud” to promote the necessity of Trump’s commission. [WND, 5/11/17]

Infowars Highlighted O’Keefe’s Work When Discussing Trump’s Commission. On the day Trump announced the commission, Infowars highlighted O’Keefe’s “exposé” of voter fraud, pointing out that O’Keefe has “troves of footage proving that #voterfraudisreal.” [Infowars, 5/11/17]

O’KEEFE’S CLAIMS HAVE REPEATEDLY BEEN FOUND TO BE MISLEADING OR FALSIFIED

Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General Found O’Keefe’s Videos “Showed No Violations Of Wisconsin Laws.” The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Wisconsin’s assistant attorney general, Roy Krote, found that O’Keefe’s videos ahead of the 2016 election “showed no violations of Wisconsin laws.” According to a memo Krote wrote in January, which was obtained by the Journal Sentinel, “Based on all the available facts I do not believe there is any basis to conclude that the videos demonstrate or suggest violations of Wisconsin criminal laws.” [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 4/25/17]

O’Keefe’s “Voter Fraud” Video Showed “Dead” Voter Later Found To Be Very Much Alive And “Non-Citizens” Who Were Actually Citizens. A May 2012 video that O’Keefe claimed showed voter fraud happening in North Carolina, including “ballots being offered out in the name of the dead” and “noncitizens voting," was found to have edited out some important facts. The “dead” voter from the video was not actually dead, and the “non-citizen” in the video had become a U.S. citizen decades earlier. Upon viewing the raw footage from the “voter fraud” video, Media Matters found that O’Keefe had edited out an important exchange in which the undercover operative clarified he was actually seeking the ballot of the deceased man’s living son, who was registered to vote at the same address and shared his late father’s name. ThinkProgress similarly debunked O’Keefe’s claims of “non-citizens” voting in the video, noting that “a simple Nexis search” of one man’s name showed that he and his wife were naturalized citizens, and that a second man, who was reportedly harassed with anonymous phone calls about his citizenship prior to the video, had become a naturalized citizen the previous year. ThinkProgress concluded that “the one instance in the video where O’Keefe purports to show that a non-citizen had actually voted, in fact shows that a citizen voted.” [ThinkProgress, 5/15/12, 5/16/12; Media Matters, 5/16/12]

Yet Another “Voter Fraud” Video Failed To Show Any Actual Voter Fraud; It “Just Shows How Limited O’Keefe’s Talents Are.” Over the course of several months in 2012, Project Veritas released videos that O’Keefe claimed proved “widespread voter fraud” in several states and the District of Columbia. As several media outlets quickly pointed out in response to one of the videos, in which an undercover actor appears to obtain a ballot posing as former Attorney General Eric Holder, the heavily edited videos did not, in fact, show any instances of voter fraud or voting at all. Instead, the videos showed actors almost committing a crime by attempting to falsely claim ballots, and illustrated how difficult it would be to commit actual voter fraud. As then-politics editor Alex Koppelman explained in The New Yorker (emphasis added):

James O’Keefe and his supporters think that he’s scored big today. See, not long ago, Attorney General Eric Holder criticized laws that require people wishing to vote to bring photo I.D. with them; he called those laws “a solution in search of a problem,” and said “there is no statistical proof that vote fraud is a big concern in this country.” So one of O’Keefe’s colleagues—a white man who looks considerably younger than the Attorney General—went to went to (sic) Holder’s polling place for the recent primary in Washington, D.C., and claimed to be Holder. The punch line, of course, is that he was given no trouble, and welcomed to vote. (He never went through with it and actually committed the voter fraud, presumably because someone’s giving them legal advice not to.)

It’s a cute little trick, and a lot of people on the right have gotten a nice little laugh at Eric Holder’s expense today. The Drudge Report has led with it all day. But it doesn’t prove anything—actually, if anything, it shows just how limited O’Keefe’s talents are, and how un-ambitious is the vision espoused by the right’s new investigative journalists and those who publish them.

[...]

[Ben] Shapiro and O’Keefe and the rest don’t know when voter fraud takes place, if indeed it does, because they don’t do the work necessary to find out. O’Keefe may be lionized as an investigative journalist, but he’s not one, and he never has been. He takes the easy, flashy way out: his videos don’t prove that malfeasance is happening; they prove that it could, maybe. (Taking the same trick and repeating it over and over again, which is basically what O’Keefe did with this latest video, part of a series of such work, doesn’t help.) [The New Yorker, 4/9/12; Media Matters, 1/11/12, 1/11/12, 1/12/12, 4/9/12, 4/16/12]

For more information about James O'Keefe, click here.

J. Christian Adams

ADAMS SUGGESTED TRUMP’S INVESTIGATION WAS “LONG OVERDUE.”

WND Quoted Adams About The “Wild West” Of Voter Fraud Under Obama. According to WND, former Justice Department official J. Christian Adams called Trump’s commission “long overdue after eight years of voter fraud that resembled the ‘Wild West’ during the Obama years.” [WorldNetDaily, 5/11/17]

ADAMS CLAIMED THE DOJ WAS HOSTILE TO WHITE PEOPLE FOR NOT PUSHING A PHONY SCANDAL

Adams Resigned From The Department Of Justice After It Wouldn’t Pursue Charges Against The New Black Panther Party. Adams resigned from the Justice Department in 2010 after it would not pursue charges against the New Black Panther Party, which he had accused of voter intimidation. During an appearance on Fox News, Adams claimed that the Justice Department fostered “hostility” toward white people for not pursuing charges in the phony scandal. [Media Matters, 10/13/11]

For more information about J. Christian Adams, click here.

Studies Have Found No Evidence Of Widespread Voter Fraud

State Election Officials In Over Two Dozen States Have Thrown Cold Water On Conservative Voter Fraud Fears. Election officials in over two dozen states across the nation have found no evidence of widespread voter fraud during the 2016 election. [Media Matters, 5/11/17]

Wash. Post: 2014 Study Found Only 31 Cases Of In-Person Voter Fraud In More Than 1 Billion Votes. Loyola University law professor Justin Levitt wrote in The Washington Post that he found only 31 credible allegations of in-person voter fraud among the more than 1 billion votes cast in "general, primary, special, and municipal elections from 2000 through 2014." From the August 7, 2014, Washington Post article:

Election fraud happens. But ID laws are not aimed at the fraud you'll actually hear about. Most current ID laws (Wisconsin is a rare exception) aren't designed to stop fraud with absentee ballots (indeed, laws requiring ID at the polls push more people into the absentee system, where there are plenty of real dangers). Or vote buying. Or coercion. Or fake registration forms. Or voting from the wrong address. Or ballot box stuffing by officials in on the scam. In the 243-page document that Mississippi State Sen. Chris McDaniel filed on Monday with evidence of allegedly illegal votes in the Mississippi Republican primary, there were no allegations of the kind of fraud that ID can stop.

Instead, requirements to show ID at the polls are designed for pretty much one thing: people showing up at the polls pretending to be somebody else in order to each cast one incremental fake ballot. This is a slow, clunky way to steal an election. Which is why it rarely happens.

[...]

The 31 incidents below come in the context of general, primary, special, and municipal elections from 2000 through 2014. In general and primary elections alone, more than 1 billion ballots were cast in that period. [The Washington Post, 8/6/14; Media Matters, 8/7/14]

Academic Studies Have Found Very Little Voter Fraud. The Washington Post’s Christopher Ingraham listed multiple examples as he note, “There is overwhelming scholarly and legal consensus that voter fraud is vanishingly rare.”. From a July 9, 2014, article (emphasis original):

There is overwhelming scholarly and legal consensus that voter fraud is vanishingly rare, and in fact non-existent at the levels imagined by voter ID proponents.

[...]

The Politics of Voter Fraud, by Lorraine Minnite of Columbia University. Minnite concludes that voter fraud is exceedingly rare, and that the few allegations in the record usually turn out to be something other than voter fraud: "a review of news stories over a recent two year period found that reports of voter fraud were most often limited to local races and individual acts and fell into three categories: unsubstantiated or false claims by the loser of a close race, mischief and administrative or voter error."

Fraudulent Votes, Voter Identification and the 2012 US General Election, by John Ahlquist and Kenneth R. Mayer of the University of Wisconsin, and Simon Jackman of Stanford. The authors conducted a survey experiment "to measure the prevalence of two specific types of voter fraud: repeat/fraudulent ballot casting and vote buying." Their conclusion:

"The notion that voter impersonation is a widespread behavior is totally contradicted by these data."

Voter Identifications Laws, by Minnite again. "In 95 percent of so-called 'cemetery voting' alleged in the 2010 midterm election in South Carolina, human error accounts for nearly all of what the state's highest law enforcement official had informed the U.S. Department of Justice was fraud."

Caught in the Act: Recent Federal Election Fraud Cases, by Delia Bailey of the Washington University in St. Louis. Bailey unearthed only nine federal election fraud cases occurring between 2000 and 2005.

They Just Do Not Vote Like They Used To: A Methodology to Empirically Assess Election Fraud, by M.V. Hood III of the University of Georgia and William Gillespie of Kennesaw State University. "After examining approximately 2.1 million votes cast during the 2006 general election in Georgia, we find no evidence that election fraud was committed under the auspices of deceased registrants." [The Washington Post, 7/9/14]

Brennan Center For Justice: Voter Impersonation Is "More Rare Than Getting Struck By Lightning." According to a 2007 report by the Brennan Center for Justice, instances of the type of voter impersonation that voter ID laws -- laws, which many courts have found discriminatory, that require voters to show identification before casting a ballot -- are designed to stop are "more rare than getting struck by lightning." From the 2007 report:

The most common example of the harm wrought by imprecise and inflated claims of "voter fraud" is the call for in-person photo identification requirements. Such photo ID laws are effective only in preventing individuals from impersonating other voters at the polls — an occurrence more rare than getting struck by lightning. [Brennan Center For Justice, 2007; Latin Post, 4/5/16]

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