Policy

Voter Fraud Panel Chair Swipes at Schumer Over Charlottesville

Kobach: ‘It’s a pathetic, partisan attempt to wrap Charlottesville around every issue’

Vice chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election, Kris Kobach. The Kansas secretary of state is also running for governor. (CQ Roll Call)

The vice chair of a presidential commission charged with investigating voting fraud swung back at the Democratic leader of the Senate Friday, saying it was “pathetic” that Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer equated the panel with white supremacists and a deadly rally earlier this month in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“It’s a pathetic, partisan attempt to wrap Charlottesville around every issue he can think of,” said Kris Kobach, the vice chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. “It’s complete nonsense.”

On Thursday, Schumer, a Democrat from New York, posted a piece on Medium.com calling for President Donald Trump to disband the commission. He also said if Trump failed to do so, Congress should consider attaching riders to “must-pass” legislation in September that would prohibit the panel’s operation.

“If the president wants to truly show that he rejects the discrimination agenda of the white supremacist movement, he will rescind the Executive Order that created this commission,” he wrote. He also called on Kobach, a Republican who is running for governor in Kansas, to testify in a series of public hearings on the status of voting rights.

Kobach took issue with Schumer’s claim that the commission’s intent was to “intimidate voters and purge them from the rolls through a national voter database.”

“That’s false,” he said. “The commission has already stated that. We intend to destroy the voter registration files once the commission is done with its work.” Moreover, he said, the commission has no power to purge any voter from the rolls — that’s a matter left up to the states.

The commission, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, is scheduled to meet on Sept. 12 in New Hampshire for its second meeting. It is seeking publicly available voter information from across the country, but according to a count by the Associated Press, 14 states and the District of Columbia are denying the requests. One of those states refusing to comply is Maine, whose Democratic secretary of state, Matthew Dunlap, is a member of the commission.

In his Medium post, Schumer frequently equated the actions of neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville with the voter fraud commission, saying the commission and “the actions of the attorney general are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They are a ruse. Their only intention is to disenfranchise voters. This is how the appalling failure to use the right words and stand up to hate in the aftermath of Charlottesville is made real in the form of policy; they are two edges of the same sword.”

Kobach, who is secretary of state in Kansas, said he was stunned by Schumer’s broadside.

“Usually he makes an intelligent point and doesn’t say something ridiculous,” he said. “This was surprising. Because I expect him to be partisan, but I also, in the past, have expected him to be smart. And this was poorly informed and ridiculous in trying to tie photo I.D. laws — or the commission — to Charlottesville.”

The bipartisan, 12-member commission was formed earlier this year following Trump’s unfounded claims that “millions” of illegal votes had deprived him of a popular vote victory in last November’s election. He also told congressional leaders that up to 5 million may have voted illegally.

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