Kris Kobach On What Led To The Disbandment Of Controversial Election Commission
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
President Trump has dissolved the panel he set up to investigate voter fraud. Many states had refused to cooperate with it. Trump has long held that he would have won the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election but for millions of illegal voters. He never produced evidence to back up that claim, and most election officials around the country have dismissed it. And the panel never issued any findings.
Now the president has asked the Department of Homeland Security to figure out what should happen next. And we're going to hear now from Kris Kobach, who was the panel's vice chairman. He is secretary of state of Kansas and also a candidate for governor in that state. Welcome to the program.
KRIS KOBACH: Great to be with you.
SIEGEL: You told The Topeka Capital-Journal that you'd expected the commission to meet again this month. What exactly happened that led to the president throwing in the towel?
KOBACH: Well, what happened was a series of lawsuits. There were almost a dozen suits filed against the commission by various organizations on the left of the political spectrum. And you also had one suit filed by a Democrat member of the commission itself. And as a result, the staff of the commission was spending more time addressing the litigation than they were doing the investigation that the commission was set up to do. And so it eventually became clear that the better way to move forward would be to have the Department of Homeland Security do it within an executive branch agency rather than use the mechanism of a commission under the Federal Advisory Commission Act.
SIEGEL: What do you expect the Department of Homeland Security to do when it's given the assignment to pick up from your commission?
KOBACH: The most important thing that the Department of Homeland Security can do - DHS knows all of the people who have green cards. DHS knows the identity of all the people who have temporary visas, and they also know the identity of illegal aliens who are in removal proceedings right now. You can take those names and dates of birth and run those against a state's voter rolls and see which of those people are actually registered to vote in a state. And then once you know that, you can look deeper and see if any of those individuals actually voted. That's never been done before, and that's something that's immensely valuable because the states can't figure that out in a significant way on their own.
SIEGEL: I want to pursue something that you told Breitbart. You said that when this investigation or these investigations continue at the Department of Homeland Security, they - I assume meaning various litigants like the ACLU - won't be able to stall it through litigation. The investigation will continue, and it'll continue more efficiently and more effectively. By throwing their food in the air, they just lost their seat at the table. Is there really a virtue in having an investigation into voting that is less than transparent?
KOBACH: Ideally the commission would've able to continue forward, and you would've had Democrats and Republicans on the commission and outside of the commission agreeing that we want to know the extent of voter fraud. Why wouldn't we just want to have the facts on the table and everybody agree that let's find out what those numbers are?
SIEGEL: And do you think that's entirely...
KOBACH: But that's not what happened.
SIEGEL: Do you think that's entirely about stubbornness on the Democratic - on the left side of this? There are people who think that the right to vote is so vitally important that requiring somebody to have a state, you know, photo ID or something is compromising one of the most basic democratic right. They have a different point of view. You couldn't reach some kind of compromise with them about these things?
KOBACH: Well, the commission wasn't even opining on the subject of photo ID. So that wasn't even on the - that wasn't even a topic of discussion at any of the meetings.
SIEGEL: I think your critics felt it was all leading in that direction, and that you've characterized...
SIEGEL: ...What should be the outcome (unintelligible).
KOBACH: The critics were making a bizarre and frankly idiotic argument. They were claiming that by looking at the issue of voter fraud, that was going to cause state legislatures to pass laws that would, in their view, make voting more difficult. And in their view, that would include photo ID. Well, that's ridiculous.
A commission presenting evidence doesn't do a Jedi mind trick and make state legislators in some state suddenly pass a bill. Providing information is good for the public policy process. And there was not a single Republican member of the commission who sued the commission. And there weren't Republican or right-leaning organizations suing the commission. It was all coming from the left.
SIEGEL: You also had some resistance from Republican secretaries of state. It's not just Democrats, as I understand it. I think...
KOBACH: Well, it was...
SIEGEL: You ran into some opposition in Mississippi no less.
KOBACH: Well, yeah. My friend, the secretary of state in Mississippi, made a comment, you know, very early when the initial request went out first for states' voter roll data. And I think he misunderstood that it wasn't sensitive information that we were requesting. We were simply requesting the voter rolls. And as I think most people know, it's public information.
SIEGEL: Will you still be involved in this matter and in these investigations as the issue goes over to the Department of Homeland Security?
KOBACH: Yes. I'll be working with the Department of Homeland Security and with the White House as the investigations continue within the executive branch.
SIEGEL: In what capacity?
KOBACH: As an outside adviser and as a secretary of state who of course is the chief of election official for my state of Kansas.
SIEGEL: Well, Mr. Kobach, thank you very much for talking with us today.
KOBACH: Thank you.
SIEGEL: That's Kris Kobach, who's vice chairman of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, a commission that President Trump disbanded yesterday. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.