First Meeting of Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity
Just when we thought the plot lines couldn’t get crazier. Just when we swore the name Kris Kobach never would trend on Twitter, we get a J. Jonah Jameson dream scenario. The 2016 presidential election results are being called into question. By the winner.
In the words of Kobach, vice chairman of the commission that’s looking into voter fraud, we “may never know” if Hillary Clinton actually won the popular vote. Or so he said Wednesday to MSNBC after the commission’s first hearing. If that’s the case we then may never know if Donald Trump actually won the Electoral College.
Lest we forget, the White House is occupied by a reality television star who uses social media with the zeal of a clique-conscious teen. “Modern Day Presidential” is the way he describes his penchant to tweet when on the attack or on the defense. And though his approach could be described as a shrewd use of the radio and television of the 21st century, our fascination with social media content has led to a precipitous drop in our country’s IQ.
We’re now distracted by fake magazine covers adorning the walls of Mar-a-Lago, comments about a newscaster’s plastic surgery and the president’s professional wrestling greatest hits. What is he going to do or say next? How will the Congress react? While these incidents are extensions of our need to read tabloid headlines while standing in the checkout line, they should give us, as it does our allies, pause and consideration to what’s going on in Washington.
For there’s one troubling issue that is getting too little attention. No, we’re not talking about pageant contestants locking their doors to the leering eyes, groping hands of celebrities. We’re talking about an issue that should cause everyone, no matter their political ideology, to say enough is enough.
The commission has called upon the states to provide “if publicly available under the laws of the state, the full first and last names of all registrants, middle names or initials if available, addresses, dates of birth, political party (if recorded in your state), last four digits of social security number if available, voter history (elections voted in) from 2006 onward, active/inactive status, cancelled status, information regarding any felony convictions, information regarding voter registration in another state, information regarding military status, and overseas citizen information.”
The commission wants our voting records. Not for whom we voted but rather every other bit of data. We’re talking data we wouldn’t give the church. Data we wouldn’t share over the telephone. After all, you never know who’s listening. Oh wait, that would be Homeland Security. A request from a commission vice-chaired by a noted believer in widespread, yet unsubstantiated, voter fraud. Did we mention Kobach is the Kansas secretary of state and in charge of his state’s voting records? And he’s running for governor.
Why the fuss when no one has discovered voter fraud of depth and scope that might turn a local election much less a national election? Because the current occupant of the Oval Office cannot accept falling short in the popular vote though he won the presidency in the all-important Electoral College. Mind you, we’re talking the same Electoral College he called a “disaster for democracy” and “total sham and a travesty.”
Now the Electoral College, a system that’s worked for more than 200 years, but remains a mystery to voters, is the most nuanced product of democracy other than free speech. It balances the influence of large and small states. Yet, with the White House firmly in his grasp, at least until January 20, 2021, the president isn’t satisfied. Do you see the Golden State Warriors fussing over a Game 4 loss in the NBA finals? The only playoff loss in their run to the championship?
So now the commission, albeit the president, wants our voting records. Trump wants the U.S. Army to assist in assembling the data and then store the data on White House computers. After the Clinton dustup regarding email servers and retention of files who trusts anyone in government with the secure storage of any data?
The president is willing to step on privacy rights, as well as states rights, simply because he cannot accept he’s another George W. Bush. Another Rutherford Hayes. Another Benjamin Harrison. All three winners of the Electoral College but losers of the popular vote. As I understand each walked into the Oval Office like they owned the joint. A win is a win. The chair swivels so long as you win a majority of the electoral votes.
So the president won the Electoral College but lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes. Now, most people in Trump’s situation would be bragging about their strategic genius: “We looked at the polls, knew we were unlikely to win the popular vote, but crafted a strategy that allowed us to secure the Electoral College.” But, for some reason winning the Electoral College – the vote that really counts – isn’t enough.
Coincidently, the commission is looking for 3 to 5 million “illegal” votes. Not only is the president failing to take credit for one of the shrewdest campaign strategies in recent memory, he’s acting as though he doesn’t believe his victory was real without the popular vote. He can’t see that he’s undermining the legitimacy of his win. Illegal aliens, duplicate registrations, dead people, perhaps even Elvis, are to blame.
But even political strategists extraordinaire such as Karl Rove and David Axelrod will tell you the best way to “fix” an election isn’t on the national level but rather on the local level. But, really, you don’t even need to stuff the boxes anymore. As Rove, Axelrod and other strategists have demonstrated, careful mining of publicly available micro-data enhances the odds of being able to put together the right combination of precincts, counties, states.
Let’s consider three battleground states, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Trump won each by less than a 1% margin, or only 77,744 total votes, yet the states delivered 46 electoral votes, more than enough to lock up an electoral victory. We’re talking 0.05% of the popular vote decided the outcome. Barak Obama won the same trio in 2008 and 2012, but Trump flipped the states last fall by the narrowest of margins. Questionable votes or political strategy at its finest?
Fortunately most states either have responded with “pound sand” to borrow my attorney’s go-to line or “we’ll get back to you” with readily available public records. The latter, including Florida, put the commission on hold with a promise of less-than-full compliance. Even Kansas, home state of the vice chairman, declined full compliance by refusing to provide partial social security numbers. That we’re even having this discussion, with so many other matters to consider, gives credence to our devotion to social media.
The ACLU and Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), among others, have filed suit and forced the administration to temporarily suspend the collection of data. So there’s a remote possibility we’ll get back to important issues like health care reform, immigration, tax reform, the budget and peace in the Middle East. While we ponder the possibilities the sharing of voter data remains sensitive, especially in Florida.
After all, when you’re a sitting Florida governor thinking about a run at the U.S. Senate, both offices chosen by popular vote, the last thing you want to do is antagonize voters regarding privacy issues. And the suspension of data collection has given Gov. Rick Scott some breathing room.
For the time being.