Today’s Must Read: David Becker, “Why does Trump’s voting commission want data it shouldn’t have?”

Becker oped in The Hill:

I led an effort several years ago, working with election officials of both parties and experts to solve the problem of inaccurate voter records, most of which are not due to fraud at all, but rather because so many Americans move between elections. We realized early on that we needed a sophisticated methodology incorporating multiple data points to be at all useful, and we needed to develop a comprehensive legal, physical, and technical security framework to protect that process and the data within.

The result was the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a data center which helps states keep their voter lists more accurate than ever before. ERIC is run and funded entirely by the politically diverse states that chose to join it — states as blue as Oregon and Connecticut and as red as Alabama and Utah.

And the twenty states that make up ERIC mandated a comprehensive security plan that anonymizes all private data and protects its transmission and storage. In the five years since its founding, ERIC has helped states update the voter records of over 5 million Americans, ensuring fewer problems at the polls.

These efforts are well-known to members of the commission, and in fact, membership in ERIC was recommended by the Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PCEA) only three years ago.

But this current commission didn’t take the care to develop a plan to protect the data first, and justify its use, dooming this effort to failure. And if it had, the data it requested was unlikely to be useful.

Even worse, all these taxpayer resources are being spent to research a question to which we already know the answer – the extent to which voter fraud exists. On this point, every piece of research conducted by states both red and blue, academics, and even the Bush Department of Justice, agrees – voter fraud exists but only barely. It is extremely rare, comprising only thousandths of a percent of the total ballots cast.

Which begs the question– why is the federal government marshaling considerable taxpayer resources to collect data it shouldn’t have, to reach a conclusion it cannot possibly reach, to prove something we already know isn’t true? Sadly, the answer may have been provided by the president himself last week, when he tweeted that the commission was actually a “voter fraud panel.” This traces back to the President’s entirely unsubstantiated claims post-election that he “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” The White House cited a Pew report to justify his claims – a report which says absolutely nothing about voter fraud. I should know – I authored that report. Perhaps some of the commissioners themselves are wondering what they’ve gotten themselves into, as one of the Republican members of the commission resigned Monday, before the commission had even met.

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