The Election Integrity Commission: A Solution in Search of a Problem

August 2, 2017

Podium in front of a US flag

What a Great Idea?

Back in May, President Trump signed an executive order creating a bipartisan commission to study his repeated allegations of voter fraud. Sounds good, right? What could possibly be wrong with that? Everybody knows that fraud is bad, and obviously we want to ensure that our elections are a reflection of the voters’ will, not a potentially skewed result determined by 3-5 million (allegedly) illegally cast ballots. That’s a lot of (allegedly) illegal votes!

But as is often the case in life, just because something sounds good doesn't mean it actually is good. You probably don’t remember Chocolate Peppermint Crunch. The name alone makes you want to try some, doesn’t it? Chocolate ice cream with peppermint and fudge swirls and mint chocolate cookie balls. It seemed like a sure thing, but as good as it sounded, our fans weren't buying what we were selling. Chocolate Peppermint Crunch found a plot in the Flavor Graveyard almost as quickly as it first arrived in freezer cases.


The Truth Is Out There

And so it is with the Election Integrity Commission (EIC), the Chocolate Peppermint Crunch of the executive branch. It sounds like a great idea, but we think it's bound to leave a bad taste in voters’ mouths.

Those 3-5 million illegal votes Trump keeps mentioning? Nobody, aside from possibly the president, believes they exist. In fact, the number of articles published about voter fraud every year is probably way higher than the actual number of fraudulent votes. Voter fraud is a myth. This commission is a solution to a problem that study after study has shown just doesn’t exist.

Now, to be clear, we know our voting system isn’t working as well as it could:

  • Just 55% of the voting age population voted in 2016, a rate far below that of other countries in the industrialized world.
  • Twice in the last five presidential elections, the candidate who received the most votes didn’t actually win the election.
  • Unlimited, unregulated, and undisclosed cash flowing in from a handful of super-rich families and corporations is drowning out the voices of average voters and leading to policies that benefit wealthy special interests.
  • Voter ID laws, passed by many states, do nothing to protect against (nonexistent) fraud, but they do disproportionately disenfranchise people of color and low-income voters. (We love it when politicians slip up and accidentally tell the truth about these laws.)
  • And let’s not even get started on the whole Russia thing….

That’s just a few examples. But instead of investigating any of those REAL issues, the commission has been stacked with supporters of policies that place restrictions on early voting, institute strict voter ID requirements, and reduce the number of physical polling places — all steps that make it harder, not easier, for people to vote. No, we’re not kidding. In fact, there has been no more dogged supporter of these regressive policies than the vice chair of the commission, Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state. Kansas has been the most aggressive state in the nation in restricting ballot access, and Kobach led that fight. It’s like putting an arsonist in charge of the fire department.


Time to Take a Stand

Although the EIC has not yet met, it has begun its work — and we’re already concerned. The commission has asked all 50 states and the District of Columbia for detailed information on registered voters—not just names and addresses, but political party registration and the last four digits of their Social Security numbers. As many as 44 states and D.C. have refused to hand over that information.

Ben once said, "Mocha Walnut is my all-time favorite flavor, but when we packed it in pints it turned out to be our all-time worst-selling ice cream." Apparently, no one was buying what Ben was selling, and it would appear that regardless of party, secretaries of state around the country aren’t buying what the Election Integrity Commission is selling.

Neither are we. We stand instead with all those who want to find real and effective ways of making sure our democracy works for everyone. It’s time to support innovative campaign funding models. It’s time to take inspiration from states like California and Oregon, and from various countries around the world, and drive up voter participation. And it’s time, right now, today, to push for the restoration of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) so that every American’s voice will be heard on Election Day.