Creeping (and creepy) authoritarianism: Trump wants your voting info

     President-elect Donald Trump greets Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, as he arrive at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016, in Bedminster, N.J. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

    President-elect Donald Trump greets Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, as he arrive at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016, in Bedminster, N.J. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

    Instead of parsing Trump’s twisted weekend tweets, let’s ponder his regime’s creeping authoritarianism. That’s what’s going on while we fixate on tweets. The latest evidence comes to us courtesy of his so-called “Election Integrity Commission,” which itself is founded on a manifest lie, the empirically fake claim that American is overrun by voter fraud.

    Late Wednesday, commission co-chairs Mike Pence (the guy many Americans are desperately pining for, because he’s supposedly so much saner than Trump) and Kris Kobach (the Kansas election chief best known for his voter suppression zeal) sent a letter to all 50 states and the District of Columbia, requesting “feedback on how to improve election integrity.” And pursuant to that “feedback,” Pence said that all states should share, with the Trump administration, all of their voter roll data – including all names, addresses, dates of birth, last four Social Security digits, party affiliation, military status if applicable, voting history dating back to 2006, and more.

    Doesn’t this creep you out? Fortunately, a lot of people already are.

    Most states have laws or ground rules that safeguard their voter rolls. Jacob Hoffman-Andrews, senior staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, warns that if the Trump regime is able to collect all the voter rolls, “it creates a one-stop shop for people who want to use the data maliciously, from identity thieves to stalkers.” And Russian hackers.

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    Gee. Remember when Republicans in Washington used to hate “government overreach?” Rest assured they’d still hate it if Barack Obama had had the gall to ask the states to violate the privacy of voting booth (and violate state laws). Rest assured they would’ve denounced him as a dictator bent on using voter info for his own nefarious purposes. But since it’s Trump’s “integrity” panel that’s doing it, we’ve naturally heard nary a peep from the supine D.C. GOP.

    Thankfully, at least two dozen states have already signaled their refusal to cooperate. How ironic that “state’s rights” are being invoked to combat Republican big brotherism.

    For instance, Delbert Hosemann, the Republican secretary of state in ruby-red Mississippi, has won the award for best response to the Trump apparatchiks: “They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico. Mississippi residents should celebrate Independence Day and our state’s right to protect the privacy of our citizens by conducting our own electoral process.” Indiana election chief Connie Lawson, another Republican, says simply: “Indiana law doesn’t permit the secretary of state to provide the personal information requested.” (Even more delicious: Lawson is a member of the Pence-Kobach commission.)

    Some of the Democratic refuseniks have gone further, as one would expect, but they have the advantage of being correct on the facts. For instance, California secretary of state Alex Padilla: “California’s participation would only serve to legitimize the false and already debunked claims of massive voter fraud made by the president, the vice president, and Mr. Kobach.” And Kentucky secretary of state Alison Lundergan Grimes said: “The president created his election commission based on the false notion that ‘voter fraud’ is a widespread issue. It is not. Kentucky will not aid a commission that is at best a waste of taxpayer’s money.”

    “False notion” indeed. That’s the crux of the matter.

    The panel sprang from Trump’s crackpot claim that three million “illegals” cast ballots last November and stole his popular vote victory; there hasn’t been a scintilla of evidence anywhere to support his delusion, and, at one point last winter, even his own election lawyers admitted it. In truth, “election integrity” is just a euphemistic fig leaf for the national GOP’s longstanding mission to cull minorities from the rolls.

    The claim of widespread “voter fraud” is itself the real fraud. I’m well aware that facts and figures mean nothing to the 37 percent of Americans who think Trump is doing swell, but I’m sorry, marinating in ignorance is not an option on this page. Here’s what empirical truth looks like:

    An election specialist at the Loyola School of Law, Los Angeles, crunched the national numbers from 2010 and 2014, and found a grand total of 31 credible incidents of voter impersonation – out of one billion votes cast.

    Elsewhere, the Brennan Center at New York University Law School found that the fraud rate in America is somewhere between 0.0003 percent and 0.0025 percent; it’s more likely, said the center’s report, that an American “will be struck by lightning than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls.”

    Elsewhere, two studies at Arizona State University found 10 voter impersonation cases nationwide from 2000 to 2012.

    Elsewhere, another national study looked at fraud cases from 2000 to 2012 and concluded that “the rate is infintesimal.”

    All told, at least a dozen more studies, and court opinions, have reached the same conclusion. And lest we forget, when Pennsylvania’s ruling GOP tried to enact a photo ID law in 2012, ostensibly to thwart widespread statewide voter fraud, the GOP’s lawyers were compelled to admit in court papers that they were unable to cite a single case.

    All the more reason for the states to defy Trump’s Orwellian-named Election Integrity Commission. Why should they stoop to service a big lie?

    Actually, Trump posed a very different question over the weekend. He tweeted: “Numerous states are refusing to give information to the very distinguished VOTER FRAUD PANEL. What are they trying to hide?”

    What are they trying to hide…This, from the same guy who refuses to release his tax returns. And given the fact that his regime is under criminal investigation, he’s the last guy who should be preaching to us about “election integrity.”


    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.

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