[Image via anselm.edu]
This morning, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity (PACEI) will convene at St. Anselm College in Manchester, NH for its second meeting amid reports that it will consider “background checks” for individuals seeking to register to vote. The Kansas City Star has more:
President Donald Trump’s controversial voting commission will weigh a proposal Tuesday about requiring a background check before a person can register to vote — similar to buying a gun.
John Lott, the president of the Pennsylvania-based Crime Prevention Research Center, will present the concept when the commission holds its second meeting of the year in New Hampshire.
Lott’s PowerPoint, which was posted on the White House’s website in advance of the meeting, includes a slide titled “How to check if the right people are voting.”
He notes that Republicans worry that ineligible people are voting, while Democrats contend “that Republicans are just imagining things.” Lott proposes applying the federal background check system for gun purchases, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, to voter registrations.
Lott said in a phone call that the background check system, which was established under President Bill Clinton, checks whether a person is a non-citizen and whether they have a felony conviction among other pieces of information to determine their eligibility to own a gun.
He said that these same checks could be made to determine a person’s eligibility to vote because there are “similar rules for whether you can own a gun and whether you can vote.”
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who serves as vice chair of the commission, did not immediately comment on whether he supports the idea.
Kobach, a candidate for Kansas governor, has championed some of the strictest voting laws in the country during his tenure as secretary of state. He has also been an outspoken proponent of loosening gun regulations.
Lott, who last year published a book called “The War on Guns: Arming Yourself Against Gun Control Lies,” said that Democrats have praised using background checks for guns and questioned why they would oppose using the same system for voting when it’s already up and running.
“They say it does not impinge on people’s right to self-defense… It shouldn’t be any harm in their eyes to check whether people are eligible to vote,” he said.
“It just seems like if they believe what they’re saying it seems like a win-win.”
It’s hard to know where to start; my initial reaction is that this proposal is much more about tweaking gun control advocates about background checks than it is “election integrity.” But as an election policy proposal, it seems like an extremely unwieldy and unnecessarily time-consuming method of verifying voter eligibility – which is already done in many states during online voter registration.
Add in the fact that the agenda includes other presentations with similarly questionable approaches – including one on voter fraud which my friend and colleague Paul Gronke not-very-gently disassembles here – and it appears the Commission is doing its best to confirm the worst fears of its opponents. The days of the bipartisan PCEA – which, unlike PACEI, sought guidance and testimony from actual election administrators – seem further and further away every day, even as its recommendations continue to be implemented across the nation. I strongly suspect that PACEI’s legacy, if any, will fall far shorter.
It could be a long, dispiriting day in Manchester. I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t want to “stay tuned.”