President Donald Trump and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R)'s commission to prevent "vote fraud" is a scam that was designed to fail, wrote AlterNet columnist Steven Rosenfeld on Thursday, but its failure is the first step in a plan by the GOP to suppress Democratic votes for years to come.
Election officials are calling the commission and its attempt to harvest voter data from every state in the union "a cynical, calculated ploy engineered by Kobach who knew some states could never respond."
Kobach, said Rosenfeld, could not have chosen a more intrusive and offensive demand to place on the secretaries of state of the other 49 states than to ask them to hand over all of their voter data.
"Before Kobach’s attempted data grab -- which 41 states as of Thursday said no way to -- he already was known throughout the small world of state election administrators and election lawyers as an unabashed vote suppressor and white nativist, where he helped groups file numerous anti-immigrant lawsuits and author anti-immigrant laws," Rosenfeld explained.
When Kobach was appointed by Trump as the chair of the "election integrity" commission and sent out his now-notorious letter demanding to see voters' private data, it was clear to election officials around the country that his plan is aimed at disenfranchising voters who he sees as threats to Republican electoral hegemony.
Luckily, Rosenfeld said, Kobach himself is so ham-handed and buffoonish -- and his own Kansas office so shoddily run -- that the caper is doomed to fail. Secretaries of state have rejected the request outright.
However, this may be only the first stage of a long-term effort to suppress votes.
"Kobach and a handful of other Republican statewide election managers and lawyers -- the same crew that were running federal election oversight under George W. Bush -- have found weaknesses or ambiguities in federal election laws and are trying to exploit them to restrict who can vote. Their motive is simple. They know the Republican’s white and aging base are a shrinking minority in a diversifying nation. Philosophically, this ilk believe fewer but better qualified voters is perfectly acceptable and even wise," Rosenfeld wrote.
By creating a "national voter database" and tightening ID requirements at polling places around the country, the GOP is able to shave off the crucial 2 to 3 percent of the vote it needs to win elections in spite of its shrinking base.
In the name of "securing the polls," Kobach and crew want to systematically reduce access to voter registration, make it harder to register by requiring paper proof of citizenship and make it easier to purge voter rolls.
University of Florida voting rights expert Michael McDonald tweeted this week, "Make no mistake, this is a cynical, calculated ploy engineered by Kobach who knew some states could never respond," adding, "So when Kobach says states are ‘hiding’ he knew in advance some states couldn't share data. His request set states up so he can accuse them.”
Kobach, Rosenfeld warned, is "no dummy."
"Election insiders who have warily watched him for years have been saying this latest nationwide data-grab gambit may be a masterful version of three-card Monte," said Rosenfeld. "That is, Kobach knew he wouldn’t get anywhere, but baited the election law establishment to create a vacuum where Republicans could claim that states need to take new steps to protect the vote, police the process and pass newly restrictive measures."