My Thoughts on President Trump’s Executive Order Establishing “Voter Fraud” Commission

The President has just issued the promised executive order (I’ve posted it below the fold).  A few notes:

  1. Although it broadly states a goal to look at public confidence in the election process, it seems to do this only by demanding a study of supposed voter fraud (not, as had been rumored) voter suppression.
  2. This breaks with the tradition of Carter-Ford, Carter-Baker, and Bauer-Ginsberg of having two well respected bipartisan leaders in charge of the Commission. It is not only led by the Republican vice president, but reports suggest that Kris Kobach will be the vice chair. (The EO does not list the members of the up-to-15 member commission.) That alone makes this commission suspect. The presence of some members of the Commission who have made it their mission in life to exaggerate or lie about the extent that voter fraud is a problem in this country today as an excuse to make it harder to register and vote makes this Commission illegitimate to begin with.
  3. It is not clear whether any serious Democrats or election professionals or academics who study election administration will be involved in the effort. Many have called for a boycott of the Commission, and that could well happen.
  4. What is the purpose of the Commission? It does not appear aimed at studying voter fraud in a serious way. We already know that the amount of voter fraud in the last election was very small. Very very small. There is absolutely no evidence supporting the President’s outlandish claim that 3 million or more non-citizen voters voted in the 2016 elections. So the point is either to give the President validation for his outlandish claims and/or to provide a pretext for passing more laws to make it harder to register and to vote.
  5. As far as pretext goes, the thing I’m most concerned about is using the report’s “conclusions” as an excuse for Congress to pass new legislation making it harder to register and vote, such as repealing voter friendly portions of the 1993 NVRA (motor-voter law). I suspect this is the end game. (We may get some insight into this if and when Kobach’s notes on how to kill the NVRA are released.)
  6. This is not a good day for those who believe we should have a system where all eligible voters, but only eligible voters, can easily cast a ballot that will be fairly and accurately counted.


Office of the Press Secretary


May 11, 2017




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By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to promote fair and honest Federal elections, it is hereby ordered as follows:


Section 1Establishment.  The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity (Commission) is hereby established.


Sec. 2Membership.  The Vice President shall chair the Commission, which shall be composed of not more than 15 additional members.  The President shall appoint the additional members, who shall include individuals with knowledge and experience in elections, election management, election fraud detection, and voter integrity efforts, and any other individuals with knowledge or experience that the President determines to be of value to the Commission.  The Vice President may select a Vice Chair of the Commission from among the members appointed by the President.


Sec. 3Mission.  The Commission shall, consistent with applicable law, study the registration and voting processes used in Federal elections.  The Commission shall be solely advisory and shall submit a report to the President that identifies the following:


(a)  those laws, rules, policies, activities, strategies, and practices that enhance the American people’s confidence in the integrity of the voting processes used in Federal elections;


(b)  those laws, rules, policies, activities, strategies, and practices that undermine the American people’s confidence in the integrity of the voting processes used in Federal elections; and


(c)  those vulnerabilities in voting systems and practices used for Federal elections that could lead to improper voter registrations and improper voting, including fraudulent voter registrations and fraudulent voting.


Sec. 4Definitions.  For purposes of this order:


(a)  The term “improper voter registration” means any situation where an individual who does not possess the legal right to vote in a jurisdiction is included as an eligible voter on that jurisdiction’s voter list, regardless of the state of mind or intent of such individual.

(b)  The term “improper voting” means the act of an individual casting a non-provisional ballot in a jurisdiction in which that individual is ineligible to vote, or the act of an individual casting a ballot in multiple jurisdictions, regardless of the state of mind or intent of that individual.


(c)  The term “fraudulent voter registration” means any situation where an individual knowingly and intentionally takes steps to add ineligible individuals to voter lists.


(d)  The term “fraudulent voting” means the act of casting a non-provisional ballot or multiple ballots with knowledge that casting the ballot or ballots is illegal.


Sec. 5Administration.  The Commission shall hold public meetings and engage with Federal, State, and local officials, and election law experts, as necessary, to carry out its mission.  The Commission shall be informed by, and shall strive to avoid duplicating, the efforts of existing government entities.  The Commission shall have staff to provide support for its functions.


Sec. 6Termination.  The Commission shall terminate 30 days after it submits its report to the President.


Sec. 7General Provisions.  (a)  To the extent permitted by law, and subject to the availability of appropriations, the General Services Administration shall provide the Commission with such administrative services, funds, facilities, staff, equipment, and other support services as may be necessary to carry out its mission on a reimbursable basis.


(b)  Relevant executive departments and agencies shall endeavor to cooperate with the Commission.


(c)  Insofar as the Federal Advisory Committee Act, as amended (5 U.S.C. App.) (the “Act”), may apply to the Commission, any functions of the President under that Act, except for those in section 6 of the Act, shall be performed by the Administrator of General Services.


(d)  Members of the Commission shall serve without any additional compensation for their work on the Commission, but shall be allowed travel expenses, including per diem in lieu of subsistence, to the extent permitted by law for persons serving intermittently in the Government service (5 U.S.C. 5701-5707).


(e)  Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:


(i)   the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or


(ii)  the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.


(f)  This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(g)  This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.









May 11, 2017.



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