President Trump scrapped the commission he created to investigate problems with alleged voter fraud on Wednesday, blaming state leaders for refusing to share data that could help to determine the extent of any problem.
However, Trump is now asking the Department of Homeland Security to pick up the investigation and urging Congress to pass a national Voter ID law.
“Despite substantial evidence of voter fraud, many states have refused to provide the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity with basic information relevant to its inquiry,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in a statement Wednesday.
“Rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense, today President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order to dissolve the Commission, and he has asked the Department of Homeland Security to review its initial findings and determine next courses of action,” she added.
Hans von Spakovsky manages the Election Law Reform Initiative at the Heritage Foundation and served on the commission until its termination.
“I’m disappointed but I understand why President Trump did this. The commission has basically been unable to do its work for more than two months,” said von Spakovsky.
He says the inability of the commission to make progress is a result both of state officials refusing to cooperate and lawsuit-happy activists grinding the work of the panel to a halt.
“We have all these state election officials refusing to provide us with the data we need with state voter registration lists so we can do the research we need to do. Also, liberal progressive groups have filed about a dozen lawsuits to stop the commission from being able to operate. The staff of the commission is spending all their time in this frivolous litigation,” said von Spakovsky.
One of the most common arguments made by state officials in refusing to turn over voter registration lists is that the federal government has no business barging in and demanding states provide the information.
Von Spakovsky says that argument rings hollow given what states constantly do with the same information.
“The information we asked for is information that all of these states routinely sell to candidates and political parties. So why they think they shouldn’t give it to this commission looking at election integrity, I don’t really understand,” said von Spakovsky, who contends the federal government has every right to see the same records.
“The federal government is entitled to that information because those voter registration lists are what are used for federal elections, elections for Congress and the president. Obviously, the federal government has a right to that information,” said von Spakovsky.
Despite the dearth of records to study, von Spakovsky says the commission’s work shows there is clearly a problem.
“Some folks who got the voter registration lists – the same information we wanted – from 21 states that represent just 17 percent of the voters in the country, and yet they found more than 8,500 people who illegally voted in more than one state in [the 2016] election,” said von Spakovsky.
On Thursday, election officials in Virginia determined the outcome of a race for the House of Delegates that would also determine the majority in that chamber. The race was deadlocked after recounts and court challenges, and Republican David Yancey’s name was drawn out of a bowl, giving the GOP a 51-49 majority.
Von Spakovsky says that race may well have been impacted by illegal voting.
“That’s a legislative district in which a group that I’m associated with discovered that in just one town, Newport News, in the last few years they’ve removed a couple hundred non-citizens who had registered in that city and had voted almost 300 times in prior elections. So it’s very possible that particular race may have been decided by people who shouldn’t have been voting,” said von Spakovsky.
So what happens now? As Trump indicated, the issue will now be referred to the Department of Homeland Security. However, von Spakovsky says DHS is going to need a lot of help.
“They can’t look into this problem without the help and cooperation of the U.S. Justice Department. That’s going to take Jeff Sessions helping them too. It looks like it’s going to have to be private groups and others like myself still trying to look into this problem,” said von Spakovsky.
Trump has one other suggestion.
“As Americans, you need identification, sometimes in a very strong and accurate form, for almost everything you do…..except when it comes to the most important thing, VOTING for the people that run your country. Push hard for Voter Identification!” he tweeted Thursday morning.
Voter identification has been pushed in many states governed by Republicans, but the more liberal states want nothing to do with it. It’s unclear whether Trump is advocating for a national voter identification law, but von Spakovsky believes it would be constitutional.
“I agree with the president. Congress could impose an ID requirement for federal elections. If they did that, that would virtually guarantee ID for all elections because in most states the state and federal elections are held at the same time,” said von Spakovsky.
However, he does not believe there is nearly enough political will to get the idea through Congress.
“Politically, don’t think it’s possible because you would have huge fights between both Democrats and Republicans over this issue. There are some states that are moving forward with this. Iowa just put in an ID requirement, but there are other states that are adamantly opposed to it like New York and California, which are two of the largest states in the country,” said von Spakovsky.