The Left’s Crusade Against Honest Elections

Michael Thielen Executive Director, Republican National Lawyers Association
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The long-discredited tale blaming Sarah Palin for the 2011 shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was resurrected by The New York Times last week in the wake of the shooting of Majority Whip Steve Scalise.  Yet it wasn’t the only highly partisan distortion of the truth by the Times on a conservative Republican.  They allowed a similarly tortured effort by long time opponent of any effort to protect the integrity of elections, Ari Berman, on another leading conservative: Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity Vice Chair and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. 

Berman recently came in the news for being the first to champion a study that said 200,000 people in Wisconsin were turned away for lacking IDs.  The only problem with that is even other voter ID skeptics considered the study bunk and Polifact rated it “mostly false”.  The study and other efforts of Berman and other highly partisan opponents of election integrity have failed to prove voter ID disenfranchised voters causing a writer for the liberal New York Times to conclude: “At this point, the absence of good, file-based research showing a big voter ID effect might be telling.”

That Berman was allowed to write a hit piece in the Times is troubling.  What he wrote is more troubling.  The piece claims: “For years, Republicans have used racially coded appeals to white voters as a means to win elections.”  Throughout, Berman equates conservative views on immigration, efforts to protect election integrity, and simply being a Republican with outright racism, repressive nativism, and Jim Crow laws.  And remember that this is not an opinion piece but presented as fact in America’s newspaper of record.

Berman accuses Republicans of “circumvent[ing]” the Voting Rights Act by opposing early voting.  This would be news to those who voted to pass the Voting Rights Act.  In 1965, early voting was virtually nonexistent in the United States, aside from excuse-based absentee voting.  Of course, Berman does not cite a “study” here because the leading study, funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, concluded that early voting actually decreases turnout.  Early voting does, however, increase cost, administrative headaches for local election officials, and opportunities for vote fraud, such as occurred in Miami in 2016. 

Another way Republicans “circumvent” the Voting Rights Act according to Berman is by “purging voting rolls.”  President Obama’s Presidential Commission on Election Administration (PCEA) strongly supported cleaning up voter registration lists, which is the proper, less inflammatory, name for list purging. 

Secretary Kobach has been a leader in the effort to clean up voting lists as the head of the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck program, one of two interstate voter registration data sharing programs endorsed by the PCEA.  Crosscheck “identifies possible duplicate registrations among states, and . . . provides evidence of possible double votes,“ and it is used by such deep blue Democrat states as Massachusetts and New York.

Even the example of efforts to improve the accuracy of voter registration lists that Mr. Berman cites as suppressing voters is scurrilous.  Berman chooses a 2013 case in Virginia where the judge summarily rejected the Democrats’ arguments claiming voter suppression for cleaning up lists, stating they had “not presented any evidence that the Interstate Crosscheck Program is disenfranchising any lawfully registered Virginia voters.”

While Berman uses discredited studies, statements by persons he has been associated with in his career, or evidence-free examples to attack Kobach, his motive is also clear.

Kobach’s success with Crosscheck is a threat to Berman’s world if he could repeat such success with the Election Integrity Commission.  Clean and accurate voter registration rolls are an important election integrity protection with broad, bipartisan support among the public and election officials, which you would never know by listening to the radical liberals who oppose basic election integrity protections. Secretary Kobach has led an effort by the majority of Secretaries of State across the country to clean up voter rolls and clean voter registration rolls are exactly what terrifies Berman, as he writes that the commission will “make policy recommendations at the federal and state level, which could include support for suppressive policies like . . . voter-rolls purges.”

Berman is also upset regarding Kobach’s efforts and leadership to prevent noncitizens, and especially illegal aliens, from voting even likening such efforts to the Jim Crow laws of the Democrat South of the 1950s.  While some on the far left, as a matter of policy, desire to give citizens of other countries the U.S. voting franchise, it remains notable that most countries in the world do not allow noncitizens (such as legal aliens) to vote in their elections, let alone illegal aliens. 

The irony that is lost on Berman is that every illegal alien vote disenfranchises a U.S. citizen voting legally.  Such disenfranchisement of legal, citizen voters was the very aim of the Jim Crow laws.  The reality is Berman is attempting the very thing he accuses Kobach of seeking: partisan advantage in voting laws.  The difference is that Kobach seeks to disenfranchise illegal voters, while Berman’s policies allow disenfranchisement of legal voters. 

The unfortunate fact is Berman is just one example of the Democrats’ fear of even discussing improving our voting system.  Hillary Clinton’s lawyer Marc Elias accused the nation’s longest serving Secretary of State Bill Gardner of not being a Democrat for serving on President Trump’s commission and Democrat election law professor Rich Hasen even wrote an op-ed asking another Democrat, Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, to resign. 

The Democrats are so scared of losing a fallacious talking point to appeal to their liberal base that they don’t even want to allow a study on issues of wide bipartisan support, such a voter registration list accuracy and maintenance, for fear of what other important issues the commission may investigate. 

The New York Times and other mainstream media outlets are providing a vehicle for the radical liberals now controlling the Democratic Party to disseminate their anti-election integrity message.  The sensational rhetoric and fact-free war is unfortunate in what should be a common goal for all Americans: open, fair and honest elections.