Trump’s ‘Election Integrity’ Commission on Mission to Purge Millions of Non-GOP Voters
Interview with Greg Palast, investigative journalist and author, conducted by Scott Harris
Not long after Donald Trump won the presidential election with the required Electoral College majority, he falsely claimed that he had lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by some 3 million votes because millions of illegal votes were cast for the Democratic candidate. While Trump’s accusation is baseless and has been repudiated by both Republican and Democratic state officials, the lie was a central rationale to justify an executive order establishing the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The commission, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence – and whose vice chairman is Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach – has been tasked with studying vulnerabilities in federal elections that can lead to fraudulent voter registrations and fraudulent voting.
Critics of the commission point out that Kobach is well known as the architect of voter suppression laws adopted by states across the U.S. as well as Arizona’s infamous anti-immigrant “papers please” law SB 1070. In late June, Kobach requested voter information from all 50 state governments. However, the request for voters’ names, addresses, birthdates, party affiliation and the last four digits of Social Security numbers, was refused outright by 19 states, with others unwilling to comply with key parts of the request.
At a commission hearing held in Manchester, New Hampshire on Sept. 12, Kobach was challenged for a column he had recently written for Breitbart News asserting that there was proof of enough voter fraud in New Hampshire last November to possibly have influenced the outcome of a Senate race. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with investigative reporter Greg Palast whose film documentary, “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy,” examines Kobach’s role in employing his Crosscheck system that wrongly purged some 1.1 million Americans of color from the voter rolls in the 2016 election. Here, Palast examines what he believes to be the true mission of Donald Trump’s election integrity commission.
GREG PALAST: The mainstream press has decided that the Kobach election integrity commission, Trump’s special commission – it’s all about Trump’s ego because he wants to prove that he really won the popular vote. That is complete – can’t say it on the air – it’s not true. It is not about Trump’s ego. It is about swiping the 2018 and 2020 elections. When Trump says three million people voted illegally, he’s specifically citing – you have to go the rest of his statement – Trump said, people are voting many, many times. This goes back to the chard by his guy Kobach. It’s not just a whacky claim – “oh it’s crazy, it’s insane” – no, no, no. It’s worse than that. They actually have a list of three million people they claim have voted twice.
And I’m the only journalist in the United States who actually bothered to get the list – 3.6 million pairs of names they say are double voters. It’s actually seven million people – Americans – who happened to … I’ll give you an example. Here’s a good one: 583 guys named James Brown supposedly voted twice – once, in Georgia and again in another state. And the only evidence that put him on this list is that the first name matches and the last name matches. So James Brown. And that meant that – and this is a real example, James Thomas Brown is supposed the same guy as James Everett Brown. And James Brown, Sr. is supposed to be the same guy as James Brown, Jr. These are actual examples of this list. The middle names don’t match. They don’t care. Now, why would they do this? This is not about Trump’s ego. In the last election, they actually removed 1.1 million people from the voter rolls. Names like Koch and Kobach, and frankly, Handpill and Palast don’t get on this list.
It’s names like Jose Garcia. It’s names like James Brown. It’s names like David Lee. Hispanic, black, Asian American names, in other words, blue voters. Democratic voters, and that’s because minority voters and that is because 85 of 100 names are the most common names in America are minority names. This is Jim Crow, but instead of white sheets to scare away voters of color, they’re using spreadsheets.
BETWEEN THE LINES: And Greg, I wanted to ask, as you examine this so-called Election Integrity Commission, what is your understanding of its objective. Is it simply to provide a rationale for more voter suppression measures in Republican-controlled states or is there a wider and maybe more dangerous objective that’s part of this commission?
GREG PALAST: Kris Kobach said on Fox TV that he was going to try to take this system of naming double-voters, which he calls Crosscheck, from 28 Republican states to all 50 states by putting it into national law. That you’re going to have to purge your voter rolls of double-voters and he’s going to give you the list – which is why he asked all 50 states, by the way, to provide him the voter list. And for your information, most of those states that said that they would never turn over to Kris Kobach and this commission their voter rolls, did turn over the voter rolls.
So, what’s happening here is that they want to take this system and make it nationwide. They also have a second thing that they want to do, and he made it very clear, Kobach, he’s not hiding it. He wants to prove that there are a million illegal aliens who voted in the last election as well. Basically, Mexicans across the border to vote for Hillary, you know.
So this canard of the alien voters and what he wants to do, he’s taking the Homeland Security list deportees and once again you’re going to get names like Jose Hernandez. And they’re going to say, “Omigosh, there’s a Jose Hernandez who was deported, but there’s a Jose Hernandez on the voter rolls of Arizona.” And so they have to be removed. The illegal aliens. If they’re really removing illegal aliens, why, we wouldn’t object.
But they’re not. What they’re doing is taking common Latino names and so you find them on the deportation list, and they’re knocking off American voters with similar names.
For more information, visit Greg Palast’s website at gregpalast.com.
Supreme Court To Hear Pivotal Case on Partisan Gerrymandering
Interview with Drew Spencer Penrose, legal and and policy director with the group FairVote, conducted by Scott Harris
While Donald Trump emerged as a victor in the 2016 presidential election by winning the majority of Electoral College delegates, he lost the popular vote to his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million ballots. One of the critical states in determining Trump’s narrow victory was Wisconsin, which he won by less than 1 percent of votes cast. Yet, Trump led Clinton in 63 of the state’s 99 Assembly districts and 23 of the state’s 33 state Senate districts.
The votes of Wisconsin Democrats are less powerful than that of Republicans because of the way in which legislative maps are drawn, where Democratic voters are packed into fewer districts. That produces results where the GOP, whatever its share of the vote in statewide races for president or governor, are likely to win a much higher share of legislative seats. The drawing of legislative district maps to provide an advantage to one party over another is known as partisan gerrymandering.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments in an important case known as Gill v. Whitford this October, which challenges partisan gerrymandering. The case reached the Supreme Court after Wisconsin’s Republican Gov. Scott Walker appealed a November 2016 three-judge federal panel ruling that ordered Wisconsin’s legislature to redraw the state assembly map due to what it found to be unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Drew Spencer Penrose, legal and and policy director with the group FairVote. Here, Penrose talks about the importance of this case and possible remedies to prevent partisan manipulation of legislative district maps. [Rush transcript]
DREW SPENCER PENROSE: So what partisan gerrymandering is, in this particular case, when one political party draws district lines in a way to maximize the number of seats they’ll get, and minimize the number of seats that an opponent party will get. And in Wisconsin, it’s Republicans – it actually has been more Republicans than Democrats mostly because Republicans control more state legislatures than Democrats. It’s not just a Republican problem.
In fact, a very similar case is coming out of Maryland, where Democrats pretty openly gerrymandered the state in favor of Democratic candidates. The way that they do it, really goes to the heart of the case. And that is, that, if you can take district and draw it around a lot of Democratic voters, really pack in the Democratic voters, then the Democratic candidate in that district will win with like 70 or 80 percent of the vote. And basically that means that a lot of the votes were wasted on a candidate that was going to win anyway.
And then the other thing you can do is draw districts so that the Democratic can’t possibly win. So, if Democrats are 40 percent of the district then all of those votes are essentially as well, but they can’t help elect a candidate. And so, if you measure these wasted votes and say are there more wasted votes for Democrats than there are for Republicans? Then that means that Republicans’ votes are more efficient. They’re actually more powerful than Democratic votes. And that’s really what partisan gerrymandering is in this case. It’s where you strategically draw these districts in order to make one group of voters most powerful and make another group of voters make their votes very not powerful.
And this case is arguing that that is unconstitutional. It’s not the first time that people have tried to make this case. However, it’s been very really difficult to get courts to buy into any particular theory of how you determine when this is has happened and when it hasn’t, because it’s something that can happen just sort of naturally. The people drawing the district lines will be trying to group communities of interest and that sort of thing. The system isn’t really designed to create a fair representation. It’s a winner take all system and so, sometimes that creates disparities on its own and of course, I’ve been really hesitant to jump in and try to adjudicate these. But this one’s really different. It’s a really extreme case of partisan gerrymandering. A really clear case. And what they have that’s different from prior cases is that have developed a test, a very simple mathematical test for how you determine if a state is really very lopsided.
And that’s what Justice Kennedy has asked for before in prior cases where theories like this have failed. He’s asked for a clear test and this time they have one. So, it’s a really interesting time. In this case it’s before justices who are now on the court who are considered liberal, vote the same ways before them, which I think most people expect that they will and if Justice Kennedy is convinced, then that will be a five-justice majority and that’ll be the first case to strike down a partisan gerrymander.
BETWEEN THE LINES: Could you explain to our audience some of the methods that you and your organization favor for determining district maps across the country, state by state that won’t skew the electorate in a way that gives one party or the other party a partisan advantage?
DREW SPENCER PENROSE: So, I was talking about wasted votes earlier, that’s how gerrymandering is done. It’s by manipulating wasted votes. The method that we think it really the best for the United States is called ranked choice voting. If you apply ranked choice voting to a five-winner election, then the number of wasted votes necessarily goes down almost to zero. So of course, the number of wasted votes will be the same between the Democrats and the Republicans because it will be zero. If there are no wasted votes, then there’s no disparity in wasted votes. We’ve had a proposal that we call the Fair Representation Act, which is a model proposal for electing Congress in multi-winner districts, with ranked choice voting. This year in June, our representative, John Beyer from Virginia, actually introduced it as a bill. So there’s a bill in Congress right now, HR 3057, that would elect all of Congress from multi-winner districts with ranked choice voting. That would effectively end gerrymandering for all of Congress.
For more information on electoral reform, visit fairvote.org.
DACA Supporters Express Solidarity with All Immigrants Targeted by Trump
Excerpts of speeches by DACA recipient Eric Cruz Lopez and immigration attorney Joanne Lewis at a recent DACA hearing, recorded and produced by Melinda Tuhus
On Sept. 11, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut sponsored an emergency field hearing on immigration issues at the New Haven church where Marco Antonio Reyes had taken sanctuary for more than six weeks, since he was ordered deported to his native Ecuador. Blumenthal said such hearings can’t be held in Washington, D.C. under the Republican congressional leadership, but he hoped to take the stories he heard back to Congress to bolster efforts to pass the Dream Act that would allow undocumented youth to work or attend school legally in the U.S. and put them on a path to citizenship. Before the hearing, President Trump had rescinded Barack Obama’s executive order known as DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, that would take effect in six months, declaring that Congress can use that time to pass legislation allowing these undocumented young people to remain in the U.S.
Individuals facing deportation and their family members spoke at the hearing, representing many countries, including South Korea, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Albania and Ecuador. Others, including a U.S.-born citizen who was the son of immigrants, spoke and said that an attack on any of them is an attack on him. Three immigration lawyers also spoke at the hearing, describing some of the challenges undocumented immigrants face.
Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus attended the field hearing and brings us excerpts from two of the speakers. We first hear from Eric Cruz Lopez, a community organizer and programming coordinator with the group Connecticut Students for a Dream. He spoke against the common representation of Dreamers as being brought illegally to the U.S. through no fault of their own. The other speaker was immigration attorney Joanne Lewis.
For more information, visit Connecticut Students For a Dream at ct4adream.org; United We Dream at unitedwedream.org; Unidad Latina en Acción at ulanewhaven.org and on Facebook at facebook.com/ULANewHaven.