Trump Signs Order To Investigate Voter Fraud

President Donald Trump poses with Vice President Mike Pence after signing an executive order to create a Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which Pence will chair. Creative Commons

President Donald Trump poses with Vice President Mike Pence after signing an executive order to create a Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which Pence will chair. Creative Commons

On May 11, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to create a commission, dubbed the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which will investigate alleged voter fraud during the 2016 General Election.

Vice President Mike Pence will serve as chairman of the commission, with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach serving as vice-chair.

The executive order came after Trump’s repeated, unfounded claims that he lost the popular vote in the election due to “millions of people who voted illegally.” The commission will look for aspects in the voting system that may weaken or strengthen the public’s confidence in the results of elections, as well as potential weaknesses in the system that might lead to fraud.

Many criticize the validity of the President’s commission, including Robert Bauer, who served as co-chairman of the last presidential commission on elections.

Bauer said the commission “is not intended to bolster confidence, but to undermine it, and on the strength of this program, to advance reforms that are costly, unnecessary and a burden on lawful voting by eligible voters.”

Mt. SAC political science professor Kelly Rivera said Trump’s executive order concerns her due to the stances that many of the officials on the commission have on voter ID laws with Pence, Kobach, and Lawson all being very big proponents. Rivera is also concerned with the wording of the executive order, due to its emphasis on voter fraud.

“When you look at voter ID laws, the question for me would be, what does it do to democratic voice? That’s a big concern in our kind of government, where the people are supposed to be able to control their representatives, and if you restrict access to voting, then there’s an alarm to be raised,” she said.

According to a 2006 study from the Brennan Center for Justice, as many as 11 percent of U.S. citizens — more than 21 million — did not have current government-issued photo identification.

Rivera went on to talk about the validity of President Trump’s claims on voter fraud in the last election.

“These claims are totally unfounded so far … There have been multiple academic papers researching the issue of voter fraud over the last eight years,” she said. “The statistic that always sticks out to me is one in 15 million votes is found to have evidence of voter fraud.”

Rivera also said that if the commission does find evidence of voter fraud, it could be used to suppress legitimate voting in the next election.

“If the commission finds evidence, that would be surprising to the academic and legal community, but if it does, that is important to know;” Rivera said. “The question would then be, how do we correct that?”

“And if we do, I think that we as a country should be concerned that the steps we take to correct that don’t end up suppressing actual, legitimate voters from being able to participate, because one in 15 million votes doesn’t change an election, but five percent of a minority group does.”

In addition to Pence and Kobach, up to 14 other members will make up the commission. Five additional members have been named to the commission thus far. They consist of two Republican Secretaries of State, Ken Blackwell and Connie Lawson; two Democrat Secretaries of State, Bill Gardner and Matthew Dunlap; and Christy McCormick, a federal election official.

Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell is known for his strict, conservative stances on abortion, and was the first major African-American candidate for Governor of Ohio in 2006, when he lost to Ted Strickland with 37 percent of the vote. Joining him is Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson, who championed legislation for photo ID requirements to prevent voter fraud while a state senator.

New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, who has been the driving force behind New Hampshire holding the first presidential primary in the country and has advocated for preserving paper ballots, will join Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, former president of the National Association of Secretaries of State, on the commission.

Christy McCormack is a member of the three-person Election Assistance Commission, which is an independent agency tasked with certifying voting systems and setting guidelines for voting processes which jurisdictions can voluntarily adopt. She was appointed by former President Barack Obama in 2014.

The commission is only advisory, which means that the report it produces may provide suggestions, but the commission itself cannot enact any laws or regulations. However, lawmakers and regulators can use the report as a basis for drafting legislation or imposing new rules.

The commission is expected to release a report in 2018.