By Fred Lucas | The Daily Signal
Mark Rhodes, the Wood County, West Virginia, clerk, has seen both sides of the argument over enhancing voter access and enhancing election security, first when he was found to be deceased, and later when he won an election.
Rhodes, now a Democratic member of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, wasn’t really dead. But he was concerned he wouldn’t be able to vote when the precinct he showed up at told him he was listed as deceased in the 2000 election at the polling place. He still voted with a provisional ballot. Then in 2014, he won a county clerk election by five votes out of more than 25,000 cast.
“There are things that do happen,” he said, regarding the systems. “In 2014, in my first election as county clerk, I won by five votes out of more than 25,000 cast. So, it’s one of those things we need to have fair, clean and honest elections. There should be no doubt about those five votes.”
He was among the 12 total commissioners, seven Republicans and five Democrats, that met for the first time Wednesday. Instead of arguing whether voter fraud was real, the commissioners focused on how to prevent voter fraud, verifying the voter rolls to ensure only eligible voters are registered and voting, increasing funding for new voting machines, and ways to increase voter participation.
“I was struck by how bipartisan it was, which is a contrast with all of the criticism going on in other places. It’s clear the commissioners want to get to the truth,” J. Christian Adams, a commission member who is president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, an organization that investigates voter fraud, told The Daily Signal after the more-than-three-hour meeting concluded.
“A lot of critics are kind of flat earthers,” Adams, a former Justice Department lawyer, continued. “We’ve seen this before. A group of people have a vested interest in the status quo… have a special interest in maintaining the status quo, in this instance [that] there’s no voter fraud. They raise money from that, they have salaries, they have jobs, to tell us there is no voter fraud. So, this commission is an existential threat.”
Vice President Mike Pence is the chairman and Kansas Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach is the vice chairman of the commission.
“This commission, let me be clear—this commission has no preconceived notions or preordained results,” Pence said. “We’re fact-finders, and in the days ahead, we will gather the relevant facts and data, and at the conclusion of our work, we will present the president with a report of our findings.”
President Donald Trump, who created the commission with an executive order in May, opened the meeting with remarks before departing, and criticized some of the states that are not cooperating by providing the public information.
“Every time voter fraud occurs; it cancels out the vote of a lawful citizen and undermines democracy. Can’t let that happen,” Trump said. “Any form of illegal or fraudulent voting, whether by noncitizens or the deceased, and any form of voter suppression or intimidation must be stopped.”
I’m pleased that more than 30 states have already agreed to share the information with the commission and the other states. That information will be forthcoming. If any state does not want to share this information, one has to wonder what they’re worried about. And I asked the vice president, I asked the commission: What are they worried about? There’s something. There always is.
Commission member Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, defended the mission of the panel, accusing some opponents of making defamatory statements with claims it was about voter suppression.
In an interview after the commission meeting, von Spakovsky told The Daily Signal the information some states are withholding is already a matter of public record that campaigns can obtain.
“The refusal of some states to not cooperate is purely partisan,” he said. “This is public information, much of it is already out there.”
Kobach wrote a June letter to state election officials asking for voter registration data, criminal conviction data, cases where voters might be registered in more than one precinct and, if public, the last four digits of Social Security numbers.
Still, during the meeting, Democrat and former Arkansas state Rep. David Dunn expressed concerns about the letter to states asking for information about voter data.
“I hope we can ensure the privacy of voting public,” Dunn said. “The letter to states still raises concerns. Any data should be held in our trust and safeguarded from any political misuse.”