Kobach: A Victory for Public Information

On Tuesday, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida denied temporary restraining orders (TROs) sought by the ACLU, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and others. The plaintiffs were attempting to prevent the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity, of which I am Vice-Chair, from having its first meeting on Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

Fortunately, the federal judges rejected the TRO requests. In a well-reasoned, 24-page opinion, the District of Columbia federal judge explained why the plaintiffs’ claims that the meeting would violate federal law were unlikely to prevail.

On Wednesday, the Commission met and launched its fact-finding mission. President Trump himself addressed the Commission members, highlighting the importance of the Commission’s work.

The Commission is a bipartisan body dedicated to collecting factual information and providing advice to the president about the integrity of the voting process and reporting that information to the American people. But the ACLU and the Lawyers’ Committee don’t want that information-gathering to begin. They, along with groups like Common Cause and the NAACP, have filed a total of seven lawsuits to thwart the Commission’s work.

The ACLU and allied groups on the Left have long used the tactic of litigation to achieve policies that they could not accomplish through the legislative process. But with this latest onslaught of lawsuits they have taken their litigation approach to a whole new level – they are attempting to prevent the president from receiving advice and prevent the American public from gaining information. They are literally trying to stop the Commission from doing its work.

What information are they so determined to keep under wraps?  Facts that show the extent of voter fraud in this country. Among the facts presented at the first meeting was a list of 938 criminal convictions for election crimes, almost all after the year 2000. So much for the claim that voter fraud doesn’t exist.

This tactic of attempting to stop a commission through litigation is unusual. There were 28 presidential advisory commissions established under President Obama and 24 presidential advisory commissions under Bush. None were besieged by a flurry of lawsuits like this. And only a very small number faced any litigation at all.

For example, in 2013 President Obama formed the Presidential Commission on Election Administration to study lines at polling places and other issues. There were no lawsuits from conservative groups to stop the commission from doing its work. Indeed, I was a witness who provided evidence to that commission about how we kept wait times to a minimum in Kansas.

Although a few States like Kansas have done extensive research on voter fraud, most States have not. Never before has there been a nationwide effort to analyze voter fraud and other threats to election integrity. And the ACLU and the Lawyers’ Committee wants to do everything they can to make sure that no such analysis occurs.

Although the efforts to stop the first meeting of the Commission failed, part of the plaintiffs’ objective seems to be delay and distraction. And the lawsuits have already achieved that – delaying the preparatory work of the Commission and distracting the Commission staff from other duties. As the litigation continues, there may be additional delays.

Putting such roadblocks in the way of the Commission does a real disservice to the country.  Maintaining the integrity and security of our elections is essential to the health of our political system. Long before presidential candidate Donald Trump came along, polls consistently showed that a majority of Americans do not believe elections are fair. A 2014 survey showed that only 40 percent of voters thought elections were fair to the voters. Ensuring that elections are not tainted by fraud is not a Republican or a Democratic concern, it is an American concern.

Like past commissions, the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity is a bipartisan group. It includes four sitting secretaries of state – two Republicans and two Democrats – as well as one former secretary of state. It also includes federal, state, and county officials who possess a wealth of experience in election law and the administration of elections.

This group of commissioners is highly qualified to fairly and dispassionately assess the information that is discovered. That information will be presented to the American people, shedding light on what has become a significant national debate. Fortunately, the judiciary has allowed the Commission to move forward. Let’s hope that the Commission can continue its work in the months ahead.

Kris W. Kobach is the elected Secretary of State of Kansas. An expert in immigration law and policy, he coauthored the Arizona SB-1070 immigration law and represented in federal court the 10 ICE agents who sued to stop Obama’s 2012 executive amnesty. President Trump has named him Vice Chairman of the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity.


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