One of the newest members of the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity says he is impressed that the bipartisan group appears to be on the same page of protecting the rights of eligible voters while putting provisions in place for those who shouldn’t be casting ballots.
He also categorically rejects assertions from the political left that the commission’s actual intent is to disenfranchise vulnerable segments of the population who are unlikely to support President Trump, such as minorities, immigrants and the poor.
On Wednesday, the commission held its first meeting, a public session at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House. Vice President Mike Pence is chairman of the commission, while Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach serves as co-chairman.
Hans von Spakovsky is among the most recently appointed members and is excited that the group seems clear on its task.
“This is a bipartisan commission but I was really struck by the unanimity of all of the commissioners on all of the issues we need to look at, the kind of data we need to gather, and the work that needs to be done,” said von Spakovsky, who also serves as the manager of the Election Law Reform Initiative at the Heritage Foundation.
He says the goal of the commission is clear.
“This commission is going into this with an open mind, no preset conclusion, and we were directed to do everything we can to take a look at, review, and examine the American election process and make sure, in essence, that every American who’s eligible can vote and no one’s vote is stolen through voter fraud or administrative mistakes,” said von Spakovsky.
President Trump has ordered the commission to report on its findings and offer recommendations by next year. Von Spakovsky says gathering data is the first big step and getting voter information from the states is the key to understanding whether people who shouldn’t be voting are gaining access to ballots anyway.
“That’s obviously important data when it comes to looking at the kind of problems that may be out there,” said von Spakovsky.
However, the request for data is sparking significant controversy, with many Democratic state officials refusing to comply with at least parts of the request. Critics of the president’s decision to create the commission allege that the commission will end up sparking action to disenfranchise poor and minority voters, who are unlikely to back the president or have the means to protect their rights.
Von Spakovsky says that assertion is ridiculous.
“That’s really an absurd claim,” he said. “It’s really just a nutty claim, frankly. Look, this is an advisory commission. It has no power of any kind. It has no ability to tell anyone what to do. It’s only purpose is to research the issues. And all it can do at the end is to make recommendations to the president, to the states,” said von Spakovsky.
When the formal recommendations come next year, von Spakovsky says there could well be calls for Congress or the Justice Department to take action, but he says any meaningful clean-up of the voter rolls will have to happen state by state.
While the data continue to come in, von Spakovsky’s own research shows three major areas of concern when it comes to election integrity: non-citizens voting, citizens voting in multiple jurisdictions, and the names of dead people remaining on the rolls and being vulnerable to abuse.
Von Spakovsky says getting everything right is a major task.
“It is a big job. About five years ago, the Pew Center did a study and they found almost three million people registered in more than one state and almost two million people who were dead still on the voter rolls,” said von Spakovsky.