As he blatantly lied on a series of Sunday talk shows about the extent to which illegal voting occurs in American elections, White House aide Stephen Miller told George Stephanopoulos to “invite Kris Kobach onto your show, and he can walk you through some of the evidence of voter fraud in greater detail.” On Monday, three separate networks gave Kobach the chance to do just that. It did not go well for him.
A Kansas secretary of state who is a longtime crusader against immigration, Kobach is often credited with having inspired Donald Trump's proposed border wall. Kobach has also promoted the ludicrous theory that undocumented immigrants are voting in numbers sufficient to swing elections toward the Democrats. You would think the number of elections that Democrats keep losing might dissuade him from this theory. You would be wrong.
Kobach began his day on “Fox & Friends,” where Brian Kilmeade offered absolutely zero resistance to his easily debunked claims about voter fraud. He then moved over to the Fox Business Network, where Neil Cavuto, surprisingly enough, made it clear he thought Kobach was full of it. “I don’t think you believe it," Cavuto said. "I think you’re very smart in what you do and I think you find the whole thing too incredible to be believed,” he added, while Kobach helplessly opened and closed his lips like a goldfish nibbling on flakes of food sprinkled in his tank.
But Kobach met the most resistance on CNN, where anchor Kate Bourdan all but pantsed him on live TV. Bourdan went after Kobach over Miller’s claim that last fall thousands of people had been bused from Massachusetts to New Hampshire for the purpose of throwing that state’s electoral votes to Hillary Clinton and over the grand total of nine cases of voter fraud Kobach found in Kansas after a year and a half of looking. To be clear, that is nine individuals that Kobach apparently found who voted illegally in the Sunflower State. Oh, no! By the end of the segment, viewers were either cheering or incredulous.
The floundering on voter fraud by Kobach was reminiscent of the way the GOP takes on so many issues. The party is perennially just about to unveil its brilliant Obamacare replacement or its amazing tax reform plan sometime in the near future, just as soon as it gets its ducks in a row. Similarly, regarding the voter fraud he claims occurred in New Hampshire, Kobach swore there would be more solid evidence by the end of this month. When Bourdan pointed out that Kobach had found only nine instances of illegal voting in his state after a year and a half of looking, he claimed these nine cases were just the first in a long, long list of potentials that his office hasn't quite found time to dig into. Surely if the public will just give him a little more time, he’ll show more voter fraud than people can possibly handle.
Kobach and the rest of the Trump team are also trying to muddy the waters about the different kinds of voter fraud that they claim occur regularly: There is “double registration,” when a voter is registered in more than one state. There is the fraud Trump’s people claim happens across state borders, like the Massachusetts-New Hampshire hypothesis. There are the illegal immigrants who are fraudulently voting despite not being full citizens, like a woman in suburban Dallas who was convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison just last week.
Push back on these claims, and they are quickly revealed to be as fragile as soap bubbles. Being registered in two or more states is common and not illegal and clearly does not mean the registered person actually voted more than once. Even Republicans in New Hampshire have vociferously denied Miller and Kobach’s charges about cross-border voting. The Dallas woman had been confused about her voting status as an unregistered immigrant; she voted without any malicious intent and without belonging to any pattern of widespread voter fraud. Furthermore, in a vicious historical irony, she voted for Donald Trump.
The spreading of all these false claims is all an obvious prelude to a national crackdown on voting that would have the added benefit of rooting out some of the illegal immigrants that Kris Kobach thinks are hiding under his own bed. (In his Kilmeade interview, Kobach suggested one remedy to prevent voter fraud is having “proof of citizenship,” which presumably means some sort of national voter ID given to all citizens.) At least 21 states — most or all of them dominated by Republicans — are currently considering laws that would make it more difficult to vote. The Trump team would like to take these suppression efforts national.
By throwing a lot of charges against the wall now, even if they don’t stick, members of the Trump team can create the illusion of a problem that needs to be fixed. The only question is whether they will get away with it.