WASHINGTON — President Trump is creating a commission to look into his wild claims of widespread voter fraud — and has picked a deeply controversial man to lead it.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the author of his red state’s restrictive voter identification law as well as the Arizona “show us your papers” immigration law that triggered a national boycott of the state and has since been mostly struck down in court, announced he was chosen Thursday.
“I have been appointed as the vice chair of commission on election integrity. The vice president is the chair so as a practical matter I’ll be leading the commission,” Kobach told the Daily News .
Kobach said the goal would be to put “hard numbers” on how widespread voter fraud is in the U.S. Though there has been almost no evidence of cases of widespread voter fraud in recent years, Kobach said he’s “seen a substantial problem of noncitizen registering and voting” — and said he recently prosecuted a Peruvian national in Kansas for voting illegally.
“The commission is going to do something that’s never really been done before. It’s a federal government entity that will collect data on the issue of voter fraud and election integrity,” he said.
Trump claimed without evidence in late November that he would have “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” and he and the White House repeated that argument multiple times, saying there was widespread voter fraud in the 2016 election. But multiple analyses have shown that’s not the case. The Brennan Center for Justice just released a survey of 42 jurisdictions representing 23.5 million votes in the 2016 election, and found only 30 alleged cases of voter fraud.
Kobach told the Daily News that he’d seen evidence of voter fraud in his home state — but that the point of the commission, which has a bipartisan panel, is to just follow the facts.
“There are no predetermined outcomes, the commission will go where the facts lead us,” he said. “This commission is exactly that, it’s a balanced commission of a lot of people with a lot of expertise who will see where the facts lead.”
While Kobach is a controversial figure, as is former Republican Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, he said there’d be Democrats involved as well — including longtime Democratic New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, who is widely respected across the aisle and has pointedly questioned the existence of widespread voting fraud.
That fact didn’t assuage civil rights groups’ concerns about the panel’s creation, however.
“Kobach is public enemy number one when it comes to voter suppression in our country. He is a staunch proponent of burdensome and discriminatory documentary proof of citizenship requirements for people who resetting to register and vote,” Kristen Clarke, the president of TheLawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, told the Daily News. “This has a chilling effect on minority voter participation around the country. Who knows what tactics or approach the commission will take to uncover vote fraud, which does not exist. I am deeply concerned that the mere creation of the commission and the individuals driving it could have negative impacts on communities around the country.”