Donald Trump will tell you that over 3 million illegal voters cast votes in the 2016 election. He is so convinced that the election was rife with fraud which swung the popular vote to Hillary that he established the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity to clean up the rolls.
How Did They Get That Number?
What he won’t tell you is the number he is swinging around was based on a statistical analysis of a study in Kansas that found four possible noncitizen voters in a 14 noncitizen sample and six potential noncitizen voters in a sample of 37 noncitizens. That same survey also found zero illegitimate voters in a much larger sample several times over. In fact, the samples the study used ranged from 14 survey respondents to 3200, but the statistical analysis ignored all but the shocking six in 37 sample. Extending that number to the estimated number of noncitizens in Kansas, Jesse Richman, a professor of political science at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA estimated a possible 18,000 noncitizen voters in Kansas. Taken further, the forecast for the U.S. would be just over 3 million.
The 2014 study was deeply flawed as it did not account for mistaken responses, accidental registrations or voters who registered before becoming naturalized among other things. The entire study has been called into question over the lack of controls. But that did not stop Kris Kobach, Secretary of State in Kansas from making the rounds on the political talk shows to defend the numbers. Briefly in the running for Secretary of Homeland Security, Kobach now serves as co-chair of the president’s Voter Commission.
What is the Commission Looking For?
According to ThinkProgress, Kobach and Vice President Mike Pence sent a letter on behalf of the Committee to the Secretaries of State in all 50 states asking for all of their publicly available voter information. The information that they are requesting includes voters’ full names, addresses, dates of birth, political party, last four digits of social security numbers, voter history, felony convictions, and other identifying information. There is no description in the letter of how that information will be used or secured.
The extensive voter data Kobach is now requesting from secretaries of state across the country raises the possibility that the commission will use those same methods to probe these voter rolls for suspected non-citizens or for people registered in more than one state, with huge potential to disenfranchise many legitimate voters.
Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill (D) raised those concerns on Thursday, saying her state would share the requested information but would withhold protected data. In return, she asked Kobach to share any memos or additional information from commission meetings because the group has not been open about its mission.
“This lack of openness is all the more concerning, considering… Kobach has a lengthy record of illegally disenfranchising eligible voters in Kansas,” she said in a statement. “The courts have repudiated his methods on multiple occasions but often after the damage has been done to voters. Given Secretary Kobach’s history we find it very difficult to have confidence in the work of this Commission.”
The commission is not operating in a void, however. On Wednesday, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division sent election officials in some states a request for policies and procedures about how they maintain their voting rolls—part of its enforcement of the National Voter Registration Act and the Help America Vote Act.
It is worth mentioning that Kobach’s Voter ID law in Kansas is currently the focus of two federal lawsuits.