ACRU

Attacks Against Ken Blackwell and Trump’s Voting Commission Debunked by the Facts

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This column by ACRU General Counsel Ken Klukowski was published July 5, 2017 by Breitbart.

Partisan Democrats are aggressively attempting to delegitimize President Donald Trump’s Election Integrity Commission, in part by smearing one of its most prominent members, Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, as a vote suppressor.

But the facts of Blackwell’s story vindicate the former big-city mayor and U.S. ambassador, and by extension, validate the commission Blackwell represents.

President Trump signed Executive Order 13799 on May 11, 2017, creating the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. Its mission is to identify better ways to protect the ballot box against voter fraud and other illegal acts that undermine the integrity of the democratic process on Election Day. President Trump appointed Vice President Mike Pence as its chairman, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach as vice chairman, and Ambassador Blackwell as one of its members.

Liberal activist groups funded by ultra-left billionaire George Soros are using tactics from Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals to attack the commission, including singling out a couple individuals as the names and faces representing the organization. While many of the attacks are being directed at Kobach, even more seem to be aimed at Blackwell.

Ken Blackwell has a 30-year history on these issues. Born into modest circumstances in Cincinnati, he became a public servant who —- aside from his many private-sector credentials and public-interest work —- served as Mayor of Cincinnati in the city hall five blocks from the public housing where he grew up.

He later served as an Under Secretary at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, Ohio Secretary of State, and domestic policy advisor to President Trump’s transition team. He went from being the first black man elected as a statewide constitutional officer when elected Treasurer of Ohio to currently serving as Chairman of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems.

Any attempts to impeach the credibility of the commission seem unlikely to succeed if Blackwell is standing strong, so Soros-backed advocates of using the ballot box to get open borders, amnesty, and reengineering American society are launching a two-part attack against the longtime statesman, dovetailing their attacks on the commission as an organization.

First, they are recycling accusations from the 2004 election that Blackwell was disenfranchising voters by requiring 80-lb. weight paper for voter registrations, which is heavier that most paper.

The problem with that assertion is that Blackwell was elected Ohio secretary of state in 1998 and served until 2007, but 80-lb. paper in Buckeye State registrations predates his tenure in office.

The recommendation to switch to the 80-lb. paper came from the U.S. Postal Service. Many voter registration forms in Ohio were being reproduced in newspapers. People attempting to register would cut out the form with scissors, fill in the blanks, fold it over, staple it, then mail it in.

Postal officials told the Ohio secretary of state’s office that a single page of newsprint paper is so flimsy that the machines in the postal process were often tearing or shredding the forms, rendering them useless.

Based on the U.S. Postal Service’s recommendation, Ohio Elections Administrator Pat Wolfe advised the Ohio secretary of state to upgrade to heavier paper—that is, 80-lb. paper. Her recommendation was supported by Gretchen Quinn, the legal advisor to the department. Wolfe’s recommendation was based on the Postal Service’s finding that unless the state made a change, some Ohioans might be denied the right to vote. The secretary agreed.

But that secretary of state was not Blackwell. It was his predecessor, Robert Taft, who made that decision in the mid-1990s, years before Blackwell was elected to that office. Nor was this some sort of conservative crusade. As secretary of state and later as governor, Taft proved himself to be firmly in the “militant moderate” establishment wing of the GOP currently occupied by Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

For that matter, Wolfe is hardly a partisan operator, either. She served under Blackwell’s predecessor, Taft. She also continued serving under Blackwell’s successor, Jennifer Brunner, who was a partisan liberal Democrat. In fact, she continues to serve today under current Secretary of State John Husted, a Republican.

This was the cast of characters who selected the nefarious 80-lb. paper. The heavier forms were used for several election cycles —- with full Democratic support —- prior to the 2004 election. No one cried foul that this was some sinister conspiracy to disenfranchise voters —- that is, not until 2004, when Republican George W. Bush edged out Democrat John Kerry in the presidential election, and Democratic activists were grasping for an explanation.

In fact, the only connection between Blackwell and the 80-lb. paper is that when asked if he would accept registrations on other types of paper, he initially responded that the state should continue to apply one uniform standard. The heavier paper had served well for several election cycles, and Blackwell saw no need to abandon that standard.

But the state then received large numbers of registrations collected by activists and hand-delivered to election officials. Blackwell concluded that the heavier paper was intended to protect ballots in the mail, but that given the large numbers of registrations being hand-delivered on lighter paper, he issued a new administrative policy that election officials should accept all such registrations so long as the forms were properly filled out.

The second breathless attack is that Blackwell deliberately stationed too few voting machines in Ohio’s capital city of Columbus, which is heavily Democratic.

The problem with that accusation is that in Ohio, the selection and placement of voting machines is not made by the secretary of state. Instead, those decisions are made by a four-person county election board, comprised of two Republicans and two Democrats.

Columbus is in Franklin County. The chairman of the Franklin County Board of Elections in 2004 was Bill Anthony, a prominent Ohio Democrat who was also one of the state’s organized labor leaders —- a critical Democratic constituency. (Anthony was later removed from office after he was convicted of a crime, but not one connected to the 2004 election.)

Chairman Anthony and his bipartisan board of elections determined how many machines to use, what type of machines to use, and where they would be located. Those decisions were all made on a local, bipartisan basis under the supervision of a Democrat. Blackwell had no say on those issues as the secretary of state.

For that matter, Blackwell was known as a reformer who expanded voting rights during his tenure. He fought the Ohio legislature for funding to replace the state’s antiquated voting machines. He also designed a robust voter education program, which led to exceptionally low voter error rates on Election Day. As a result of his policies, when people could not meet the ballot-casting standards on Election Day, Ohio in 2004 was one of the top three states in the nation for validating provisional ballots and counting the extra votes. All this happened against the backdrop of record voter registration and record turnout for the Buckeye State in 2004.

Under any level of responsible scrutiny, the attacks on Secretary Blackwell fall apart. Americans should not be surprised if the accusations against President Trump’s Election Integrity Commission likewise fall apart when subjected to the light of day.