I have written this piece for Slate. It begins:
Donald Trump’s attempt at voter suppression through his “election integrity” commission is a voting rights nightmare that is being enacted so clumsily it just might backfire…..
Kobach’s likely going to use this information to try to “match” voters and show there is bloat on the voter rolls, such as dead voters and people who have moved but have not been removed from the rolls. He’ll also likely find a small number of noncitizens who are registered to vote. Doing this kind of matching well is tough business: It is easy to claim that two people with the same name are the same person, or that someone is a felon because he has the same name as a felon. But Kobach will not be relying on election administration professionals to do that work; he’s going to use the president’s staff.
The report will likely conclude that even if there is no evidence of actual voter fraud, the potential for voter fraud and noncitizen voting is there because of inaccurate rolls. Accordingly, they will argue it is necessary to roll back the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (or “motor voter” law)—a law which folks like Kobach hate because among other things it requires states to offer voter registration at public service agencies. They’ll want federal law to do what federal courts have so far forbidden Kobach to do: Require people to produce documentary proof of citizenship before registering to vote. In other words, show us your papers or you can’t register.
Repealing the enfranchising parts of the motor voter law would be a terrible thing, but the good news is that the “electoral integrity” commission’s efforts are already so outlandish and lacking in credibility that it will do nothing to help get the law repealed. Serious Democrats and Republicans know this effort is a sham. This is a faux commission that is not following sound social science or bipartisan principles.
That’s not to say there won’t be an attempt to kill the motor voter law. Indeed, the move toward voter suppression is proceeding apace. Just this week, a House committee voted to defund the United States Election Assistance Commission, a federal agency which is charged with certifying the security of voting machines and coming up with best practices for election administration. And the U.S. Department of Justice is looking to make states enforce the voter purge provisions of the 1993 motor voter law.
But the Trump commission process has been so poorly handled that whatever it concludes will be likely ignored by serious people, even while the president latches onto it to make it harder for people to register and vote. He’s overplayed his hand, and we should be thankful for that.