Of course, such laws about getting new licenses are routine and routinely ignored. Many people just wait for their old license to expire before getting a new one, no one gets hurt, and no one launches a commission of inquiry. But that’s just the point about Gerrish’s old vote. The story isn’t so much a gotcha on Gerrish as it is a statement about the folly of Trump’s vote-fraud commission.
The commission is chaired by Vice President Pence, but its co-chair and driving force is Kris Kobach, the Republican secretary of state in Kansas. Kobach is a long-time advocate for tighter voting laws, which he says are needed because of widespread voter fraud. In particular, he’s concerned about what’s known as in-person voter fraud: Someone actually shows up and casts an unlawful ballot, either because they aren’t registered, because they’re registered unlawfully, or because they vote in someone else’s name. The problem is that this is highly unusual. Repeated studies have shown that voter fraud is extremely rare, and that it’s far more common for someone to register fraudulently, or for poll workers to commit a crime, than it is for people to actually vote illegally.
Kobach is particularly into the idea of databases of voter lists from various states, which can then be crosschecked against each other to find people who are unlawfully double-voting—or at least double-registered—in several states. That was the motivation behind his controversial request that states provide full voter rolls to the commission. The problem is that the technique has repeatedly failed to find widespread fraud, even as it produces lots of false positives from similar names. In one instance, Kobach dramatically announced more than 2,000 dead voters who were still on rolls, only for the supposedly dead to be revealed as still alive quite quickly. More recently, Kobach declared in a Breitbart column that there was proof of widespread fraud in New Hampshire, then saw the state’s secretary of state shred his claim. Many people, including some of Trump’s closest relatives and advisers, are registered in two states (probably because they, like most people, didn’t bother to cancel their old registrations), but also almost certainly don’t vote twice.
When there really is in-person voter fraud, however, it’s probably more likely something like what Gerrish did. He’s not the first person to decide to vote in his old home in the hopes of casting a more consequential vote. I’d bet that Washington, D.C., is packed with young, transient, politically engaged people who know their vote is probably superfluous and decide to vote in their old home, rationalizing the decision by saying they’re not really rooted in D.C. This is illegal, but it’s unlikely to be prosecuted, and it’s also naively idealistic: Those occasional ballots mailed back home to Nevada and Ohio and Florida are unlikely to swing any election.