This column by ACRU Policy Board member J. Christian Adams was published August 31, 2017 by The Hill.
After a few weeks of pre-packaged tweets designed to push me to quit the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, I’m reminded why the commission is so important and timely. You would think critics of the commission would relish the chance to prove once and for all the concerns about election integrity are overblown and that voter fraud is really a myth, as they assert. After all, if the commission comes up empty, their argument is strengthened, right?
That would be a rational approach. But when it comes to attacks on the commission, rationality is in short supply. The big risk for the critics of the commission is how the public will react when they learn how weak and outmoded many of our core election components are. For example, when the commission initially requested voter data from the states, the primary reason the story went viral is that many Americans did not realize how much of their information was already a matter of public record.
Those same voters probably didn’t know that when they claimed to be U.S. citizens on registration forms, nobody verified the answers. They probably didn’t know that the primary method for ensuring records were current was whether mail bounced or was properly delivered by the United States Postal Service. The sad truth is that if someone wants to vote twice, they could probably register again by giving a middle initial instead of their complete name. That fraudster could rely on a swarm of well-funded activist groups trying to stop efforts to clean that mess.
I saw this outlandish argument in court recently when it was claimed finding multiple registrations under the same name, address and birthday was something only sophisticated experts could do. These groups work to preserve vulnerabilities on our elections when they assert, in court, that simple spreadsheet functions cannot detect duplicate registrations.
The critics of the commission enjoy lucrative professional positions designed to preserve weaknesses in our electoral system. They spend millions to try to convince minorities that they may not be sophisticated enough to follow a voter ID law. They constantly argue that registration is too complicated, even though it can be done on a postcard.
Try thinking of another government application as important as voter registration that fits on a single page. It doesn’t exist. By convincing you that voting in America is a complex business, the insular group of election “experts” sees their influence grow. Not just anyone can become an expert, either. What matters most is if you are accepted by a small and ideologically-unbalanced clique.
If you’re a secretary of state, county clerk or litigator with decades of voting rights cases, your credentials can still be questioned. The Guardian provides a comical example. If you’re a civic-minded good Samaritan trying to help your local community by finding flaws in voter rolls, expect to be treated as though you are the second coming of Jim Crow. The small clique of left-of-center experts believes they are the chosen ones. Nobody should examine their issues without their input.
That’s why they especially hate the president’s commission. Nobody asked them. Their downside worsens when you factor in Saul Alinsky’s third rule: “Wherever possible, go outside the expertise” of your adversary. These experts abhor the empirical debate, just like the practical one. The commission decided at the first meeting to seek data and facts about our elections.
No opposition group — not the Brennan Center, not Pew Research Center — has ever undertaken a project this thorough. Indeed, Brennan Center studies “debunking” voter fraud never even mentioned federal court cases which I litigated at the Justice Department involving voter fraud. That’s why these groups cannot be trusted.
The academics treat the absurd claim that hundreds of thousands of voters can be disenfranchised by mistaken record cleanup efforts. But instead of offering solutions, they thwart those trying to do the right thing. They protest too much, especially when hundreds of counties have more registered voters than living adults.
Finally, believe it or not, the commission will actually help cross a racial chasm. It is essentially impossible to perform a public study of the practical strengths and weaknesses of our elections — with the voter’s perspective in mind — that is racially divisive. Need proof? Pick a poll, any poll, about the popularity of common sense voter ID laws across the country. The further you get from the educated white liberals who make up the election expert clique, the more appreciated it gets.
If that sentiment spreads to voter registration and broader election reforms, it’s game over for those who try to divide on race. Apart from staring at solar eclipses and dishing about premium cable dramas, voting and the proper administration thereof is one of the last things the broad base of Americans can discuss. By self-censoring and eventually shuttering the commission, we sever another line of dialogue and decamp further into our tribal politics. I won’t have it. The commission will be in New Hampshire next week, despite the organized efforts of the un-consulted clique.