Republicans tepid, Democrats livid over voter fraud investigation

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 U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans (Emma Lee/WHYY, file)

U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans (Emma Lee/WHYY, file)

Shortly after his inauguration, President Donald Trump launched an investigation into what he claims was widespread voter fraud during the presidential election.

Vice President Mike Pence and other top Republican officials requested  sensitive voter data from the states as part of the probe. But even many Republican governors — including Chris Christie of New Jersey — refused to provide that information.

As the investigation continues, it’s eliciting strong opposition from Democrats and mostly tepid support from Republicans in the region.

While the White House has rescinded the request for data as it’s challenged in the courts, Democratic U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey said the investigation is aimed at voter “suppression.”

“Instead of leaning forward and dealing with real issues that are threatening American elections, like the Russians, they are instead creating sham commissions like this,” Booker said. “None of us can afford to be silent at this moment.” 

Booker has introduced legislation called The Anti-Voter Suppression Act, which would bar federal funding of the commission.

“Every one of our taxpayer dollars that is spent on this sham of a commission is a waste of precious resources and would also lend credibility to this dangerous and absurd crusade,” Booker said.

Booker cited a 2014 study by a Loyola Law School professor who found a mere 31 cases of voter fraud from 2010 to 2014 amid more than 1billion votes cast. The commission, he said, is looking to deprive people of their civil right to vote — for which many African-Americans fought.

“Every generation of Americans has been engaged in a fight to expand access to the polls. Champions, heroes, names we don’t know, of people that lined up to fight for the right to vote,” Booker said.

Republicans in the region, however, seem unfazed by the commission’s wok.

It can’t do any harm to investigate claims of voter fraud, said U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance of New Jersey.

“I think that there may have been some voter fraud, but I do not think that it was widespread,” he said. “I want to make sure that the voting process is as secure as possible. But my own belief is that there’s not widespread voting fraud.”

Democrats up in arms  

U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, a Philadelphia Democrat, said Trump was up to no good in launching the investigation.

“You can’t trust this administration. I think that’s very clear,” Evans said. “And the talk about influencing the states … look, I come out of a state legislature. And the states are responsible for conducting elections, not the national government.”

Evans said moderate Republicans from the Delaware Valley region who are quietly endorsing the commission are being hypocritical.

“Republicans normally always talk about the power in the hands of the state,” he said. “That’s inconsistent. On one hand, they always want to talk about the power in the hands of the people who are closest to the government. But now, with this initiative by the president of the United States, that flies in opposition to what the Republican Party has talked about.”

Republican U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello, who represents parts of four counties in Philadelphia’s western suburbs, said both parties are playing politics with the last election and trying to sow seeds of doubt about the process.

“In all fairness, I think the focus by the left on everything Russia is an attempt to undermine the credibility of the election as well,” he said. “So I think both sides are guilty of trying to undermine the credibility of the institutions in Congress right now, and it’s people like me who are trying to do their job and work on issues that don’t necessarily get the same level of media attention or constituent focus.

“But that’s just how this place is working right now,” Costello said.

Still, he will not be signing on to Booker’s bill to cut off funding for the commission.

“I don’t think that there were 3 million illegal votes. I guess if the president wants to set up a commission to look at something, he’s free to do it,” Costello said. “But I’m certainly not focused on that, nor see it as a top priority of mine.”

When the commission kicked off its first meeting, its chairman — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach — cited 128 cases of alleged voter fraud found in his state to justify the effort and attention. The panel is slated to issue a report next year, which makes it unlikely any changes it suggests would be in place in time to affect next year’s midterm elections.

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