Kobach’s fellow commissioners are even more extreme. The conservative American Civil Rights Union (not to be confused with the ACLU), a think tank associated with at least three commissioners, has also blasted motor-voter, stating that “since the passage of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA), the institutional Left has worked steadily to gain control and compromise our voting process with little benefit to voters.” The Public Interest Legal Foundation, another organization associated with multiple commissioners, has released reports comparing noncitizens to actual space aliens and warning of vast conspiracies in Virginia to put thousands of noncitizens on voter rolls.
Based on the nature of this corpus of claims of voter fraud—which have often used bad or simply nonexistent data to challenge legitimate voters—it seems almost a given that the Kobach-led commission will either directly pursue similar efforts at a national level or will encourage states to do so. In the proceedings of the first meeting, Kobach denied that charge, stating that one of the commission’s goals was to “conduct research that has never been conducted before.”
The meeting served mostly as a way to air out opening statements from commissioners and set the future agenda. Commissioners officially included things like elections margins, lack of confidence in elections, automatic voter registration, and online voter registration in their list of concerns. There were also some mentions of potential “foreign interference in our elections,” and a strong focus by elections officials present on updating voting machines and technology.
Kobach and the highest-profile members of the commission, however, kept a sharp focus on fraud. “There are recurring indications that individuals are being registered to vote even if they check the box on the registration forms that they are not a citizen,” said Adams.
Von Spakovsky echoed that claim, saying that he’d identified “almost 1,100 proven cases of voter fraud.” He also was one of the few commissioners to actually remark on what he called “unfair and unjust” criticism. “Members of this commission including me have already been subject to vicious and defamatory attacks,” said von Spakovsky in his opening remarks.
The high-profile members relied on rhetorical sleight of hand to keep fraud at the forefront of the commission meeting. For one, people like von Spakovsky and Kobach constantly conflated data on phenomena like double voting and double registrations—which are rare among the billions of votes cast in the last two decades, but not unknown—with in-person impersonation and fraudulent voting by noncitizens, of which almost no hard data exists. Then they used those claims, which were presented as hard facts, as evidence for the need for an open-minded, “hard, dispassionate look at this subject,” as Kobach stated. But it seems the commission has already made up its mind, and has plans to act.
In his opening charge to the commission, Trump again alluded to murky claims of massive voter fraud, saying that in some cases, he’d heard of “cases involving large numbers of people in certain states.” He also criticized states that were noncompliant with the commission’s data request, asking: “What are they worried about? There’s something. There always is.” But he did not consider the possibility that what states are worried about is the commission itself.