Opinion

President Obama’s voter registration hypocrisy

Michael Thielen Executive Director, Republican National Lawyers Association

On Wednesday, in speech at a fundraiser at a posh residence in Texas, President Obama accused the GOP of being un-American for “active efforts to prevent people from voting.” Ironically one of those so-called efforts to prevent people from voting — maintaining accurate voter registration lists — is backed by the president’s campaign counsel and former White House Counsel Bob Bauer, and was endorsed by the president’s own Commission on Election Administration.

For every time a state or local election official tries to remove voters who are non-residents, felons, noncitizens, dead, or otherwise ineligible the voting rolls, the left inevitably screams “voter suppression” or racism. They point to an isolated case were someone was wrongly removed from the voting rolls and ignore the fact there is a foolproof solution for a registration record cancelled by mistake, a provisional ballot. We all know there is no solution or way to “uncount” the vote of those zombie or fraudulent “voters.”

In New York City recently, the police showed how easy it was to vote in the names of the dead, non-residents, or felons that have been left on the voting rolls through lack of active list maintenance efforts. The police were able to impersonate these non-voters with the greatest of ease even when they were voting for long-dead people three times their age. Virtually the only time they were caught was when the poll worker was the mother of the ineligible felon the officer was impersonating!

But bloated and inaccurate voter rolls can have other effects as well. Voter rolls are used to establish precinct boundaries, help candidates and parties communicate with voters, validate voters at the polls, and monitor election results. While it is not as bad as the legendary “Blackadder” episode on an election in a rotten borough, bloated rolls can certainly skew results. Further, the main purpose of the president’s commission was to reduce lines. It is virtually impossible to do that if you have precinct voting rolls loaded with non-voters and out of date information and are allocating scarce resources on those bad numbers.

Yet, in the last major close election, in Virginia in 2013, Bauer’s own firm was claiming voter suppression over Virginia’s efforts to update its voting rolls and sued unsuccessfully to stop the lawful removal of non-resident, out-of-state voters  from Virginia’s rolls. In the complaint they specifically targeted Crosscheck, one of the very programs Bauer and the President’s Commission now endorse, as a Republican-hatched program that is “purportedly designed to prevent voting fraud but that ha[s] the effect of suppressing voter turn-out among the poor, the elderly, and minorities – many of whom are Democratic.” The judge summarily rejected the Democrats’ arguments claiming voter suppression stating they had “not presented any evidence” that the program would disenfranchise any voters and that it was lawful.

We are not talking about a few Mickey Mouse registrations but more than 30,000 non-voters, far less than the slim 907-vote margin of the statewide attorney general’s race. These bloated rolls can and do have a bad effect on our system.

However, the president’s attack on our voter rolls is not limited to his allies suing. One of his appointments to the national “Election Assistance Commission,” Myrna Perez, prefers to label voter registration list maintenance with the loaded term “purging.” Perez is infamous for her overblown and factually incorrect numbers on “disenfranchisement” and for even stating that “purging happens all across the country, probably every day.”

The RNLA issued a detailed response to the Bauer-led Presidential Commission on Election Administration, agreeing with its list maintenance recommendations and expanding on them. We fear that President Obama’s appointments such as Ms. Perez and his statements show that is not interested in offering more than lip-service toward fixing the election process for voters. Rather, President Obama seems interested in fearmongering about voter suppression to scare his base. That is why he gave his remarks about “preventing people from voting” to his snobbish fundraiser in Texas. For him elections are about winning and politics, not about fairness or voters.