Minnesota Secretary Of State - Rochester Post Bulletin | Our View: Simon correct to reject voter fraud invitation
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Rochester Post Bulletin | Our View: Simon correct to reject voter fraud invitation

July 6, 2017

“Simon and election officials in the vast majority of states are correct to stand their ground and decline a seat on this fishing expedition.”

Rochester Post Bulletin | Our View: Simon correct to reject voter fraud invitation
By Editorial Board, 7/6/17

What do you do when offered a seat on a fishing boat and you suspect your host already knows there are no fish in the lake?

"I am declining that invitation," said Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon. Along with election officials in 43 other states, Simon has declined to go along with the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity Commission's request for voter registration information on Minnesota voters. Some states have said they will provide a portion of the information requested.

The commission, which President Trump calls a "voter fraud" commission, is seeking to back up the president's claim that anywhere from three million to five million people voted fraudulently or illegally in the 2016 election. Everyone on that commission, including the vice chair, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, must know that's far-fetched.

After all, when Kobach boasted that he knew of at least 100 cases of voter fraud in his state, Kansas lawmakers gave him special powers to prosecute the offenders. In the end, Kobach actually found six cases to prosecute, only four of them successfully.

But Kobach, a longtime advocate of measures that many say suppress voter turnout, is ready to do the president's bidding anyway. Thus, the commission, which is chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, has requested extensive information about every voter in every state in the union, including party affiliation and Social Security information.

The response to the request, which some officials have called overly broad and invasive, has been swift and bipartisan. Election officials, both Republicans and Democrats, have said they won't turn over all the requested information, either because their state law doesn't allow it or because they don't trust the intent of Trump's commission.

According to the executive order Trump signed in May establishing the commission, the group will be tasked with studying "vulnerabilities" in the voting system and potential impacts on "improper voting, fraudulent voter registrations, and fraudulent voting."

However, study after study on this issue, many of them meeting strict academic and scientific standards, have found no evidence of widespread or systematic voter fraud anywhere in the country.

For example, a study by Arizona State University in 2012 found a grand total of 10 cases of voter fraud nationwide between 2000 and 2012. Two years later, Arizona State studied five states where politicians have argued that voter fraud is a major problem, and found not a single case of successful prosecution for voter fraud in those five states in the previous five years.

The Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law has issued a report, "The Truth About Voter Fraud," that found that the rate of voter fraud in elections is between 0.0003 percent and 0.0025 percent.

In many cases, illegal votes are cast by people due to clerical errors or misunderstandings — and they are usually caught. Just last week, a former Rochester man was charged with voting in Minnesota despite living in Montana. The man claims that since his driver's license had not been updated, he thought he could only vote in Minnesota.

So where, exactly, are Trump, Kobach and the commission going to find up to five million illegal voters? They aren't, and they know it. But by sowing enough confusion and doubt about an election system that has already been studied in depth, they will be able to propose voter suppression measures.

Minnesotans are wise to that trick, having already voted down a proposed voter ID amendment in 2012. Nevertheless, Minnesota Republicans, who pushed that failed amendment, are saying the state should cooperate with Trump's commission and hand over reams of sensitive voter information.

We disagree. Simon and election officials in the vast majority of states are correct to stand their ground and decline a seat on this fishing expedition.

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