Sen. Patrick Leahy says that a commission assembled by President Donald Trump to investigate the integrity of U.S. federal elections has “zero credibility” and is being led by an “extremist” who is also a “birther.”
That leader is Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who critics say will perpetuate Trump's unsupported claims that millions of votes were fraudulently cast in the 2016 presidential election. Trump won that election through the Electoral College, but did not win the popular vote.
Leahy's statement was a response to news that Trump assembled a “Commission on Election Integrity” to review voter fraud and voter suppression in federal elections.
In a statement Thursday afternoon, Leahy said the commission’s membership exposes it as a political sham.
“This misbegotten Commission sadly is yet another malicious effort to undermine the voting rights of millions of Americans across the country. The integrity of our elections is an foundational issue, but any commission led by an extremist like Kris Kobach – a ‘birther’ whose attempts to restrict voting rights have repeatedly been struck down in federal court – has zero credibility. President Trump’s own attorneys said in a court filing last year that ‘[a]ll available evidence suggests that the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake.’ The National Association of Secretaries of State – which is comprised of Republicans and Democrats – issued a statement earlier this year week concluding: ‘We are not aware of any evidence that supports the voter fraud claims made by President Trump.’ Every other legitimate expert who has commented on this issue has reached that same conclusion.
“Perhaps we will be surprised and this Commission will ignore President Trump and Kris Kobach’s corrosive conspiracy theories and instead devote serious attention to actual threats to our democracy – like restrictive voting laws motivated by racial animus, or hacking and propaganda campaigns waged by our foreign adversaries. But I am not holding my breath.”
New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner will be part of the newly created commission, according to New Hampshire Public Radio.
In Vermont, Secretary of State Jim Condos has repeatedly said he is confident in the integrity of the state’s voting systems, including the systems in place for the 2016 presidential election.
In an interview Friday, Condos said Trump’s commission seems more focused on limiting ballot access in order to address Trump’s claim, without evidence, that millions of fraudulent votes were cast for Hillary Clinton in 2016.
“Every credible study that’s been done shows that there’s little to no widespread voter fraud, and I think that is the key,” Condos said Friday. He specifically mentioned a recent study by the Brennan Center for Justice, which says that “voting by noncitizens is incredibly rare,” despite Trump’s unsupported claims to the contrary.
Condos voiced concerns that efforts supposedly designed to prevent voter fraud will actually amount to voter suppression.
“The more true voter fraud that exists out there is denying eligible Americans or eligible Vermonters the ability to cast a ballot just because they didn’t have a voter ID,” Condos said.
Condos had a ready example: His mom.
“My mother is 89 years old, lives in senior housing, and she has an expired drivers license and expired passport,” Condos said. “She does have her birth certificate, but it would be difficult and problematic for her to have to go spend some of the money that she has left to buy an ID.”
Even when the identification documents are free, Condos said, traveling to state offices to get them creates more hassle that voters have to go through.
Condos says Vermont’s policies have taken a different approach. Automatic voter registration, which updates the state’s voter list every time a person renews their driver’s license (unless the driver opts out), has made it so that the state’s records are more current without adding any new burden on voters. The better voter data helps the state prevent fraud, Condos says, but instead of making it more difficult for Vermonters to get to the polls, automatic registration makes it easier.
Update 4:02 p.m. May 12, 2017 This post has been updated to include remarks from Secretary of State Jim Condos.