By Fred Lucas | The Daily Signal
Last week, a former Florida mayor was escorted to the Orange County Jail after a jury convicted him on a felony voter fraud charge.
Eatonville is a suburb of Orlando, where in the 2015 municipal race, former Mayor Anthony Grant lost by just 15 votes on election day, but won 196 to 69 among mail-in ballots.
State prosecutors reportedly convinced a jury that Grant and a campaign aide coerced voters on how to fill out their mail-in ballots. Grant, who had also served as mayor from 1994 to 2009, was removed from office last year after a state grand jury indictment.
This is one of many cases the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity should consider reviewing regarding voter intimidation and fraud-prone mail-in ballots, said Logan Churchwell, spokesman for the Public Interest Legal Foundation, which investigates voter fraud cases.
President Donald Trump established the commission through an executive order earlier this month. The commission’s final report will be completed by 2018, according to the White House.
Trump’s order charged the commission with studying registration and the voting process used in federal elections. It has set out to discover what laws and policies “enhance the American people’s confidence in the integrity of the voting process,” and those that “undermine the American people’s confidence.”
It’s not necessary to go back to elections from two years ago to find evidence of voting irregularities.
Nevada uncovered at least three cases of noncitizens voting in last year’s election, according to a continuing investigation by the Nevada secretary of state’s office, and at least 21 noncitizens registered at the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.
The North Carolina State Board of Elections announced that at least 41 noncitizens cast ballots in 2016, another 441 were felons serving an active sentence, 24 voted more than once, and two voted under names of dead family members.
Two Colorado women allegedly cast absentee ballots in someone else’s name.
Not all of the action was in battleground states.
The Dallas County, Texas, District Attorney’s Office opened an investigation into allegations of voter fraud with mail-in ballots from a mayor’s race earlier this month. Some voters said they got mail-in ballots despite never requesting them.
A Wyoming county clerk reportedly found possibly 11 felons and 16 noncitizens were registered to vote on Election Day.
Meanwhile, an Illinois woman was reportedly charged last month for allegedly voting twice.
“A cataloging effort of 2016 illegalities and irregularities would be useful, but a deeper look into underlying system flaws is also important,” Churchwell told The Daily Signal. “Our voter registration systems should be mapped to identify breakdowns that allow bad data entry and an extended lifespan thereafter because reasonable maintenance efforts are lacking.”
Vice President Mike Pence is heading the commission with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican, who is serving as the vice chairman.
Asked if the commission will be about policy recommendations to reform voting laws, or an audit of the 2016 election, White House press secretary Sean Spicer told The Daily Signal it would be both.
“The executive order that the president signed, and the vice president and Secretary of State Kobach are leading, is a bipartisan commission of state elections officials that are going to look at all aspects of election integrity, including voter fraud and proper registration, and allegations of voter suppression,” Spicer responded during a press briefing last week. “So I think they’re looking at this holistically.”
Besides Kobach, the top elections officials from the states of Indiana, New Hampshire, Maine, and a member of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission have been named to the commission so far. More announced members are pending.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which opposes voter ID laws, is investigating through the Freedom of Information Act whether any of the officials have made pre-judgements on the matter of voter fraud.
“We believe the outcome of the commission’s investigation is preordained,” Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said in a statement last week. “It’s time to shed light on whether any commission members were crafting policy recommendations before their investigation was launched or the commission was even formally announced. If they’ve got evidence, it’s time to stop hiding and start sharing.”
Churchwell said if the White House wants “a holistic approach,” then there should be more information sharing among the federal agencies, such as the Department of Justice, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services sharing with state and county election officials.
“Want to know how many noncitizens are registered to vote in America today? DOJ could bounce all 50 states’ voter rolls against immigration databases and find out,” Churchwell told The Daily Signal in an email. “Want to know how you could streamline this into an ongoing process, instead of creating herculean research tasks? Pipe USCIS, CBP, and ICE data to the states in real time.”
He also said the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, better known as the motor voter law, should be updated because it was adopted at a time when noncitizens didn’t have access to voter registration through motor vehicles, social services, and other avenues.
“Outmoded procedures risk trapping unwitting noncitizens into systems that can lead to their deportation, while others can willfully register and vote regardless of consequences,” he said.