Trump Voter Fraud Commissioner Is Continuing Voter Purge Crusade Side Job

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A member of the President Trump’s voter fraud commission is continuing his separate crusade of bullying localities into purging their voter rolls, even as a witness at a commission meeting last month questioned the formula the commissioner has used to bring his claims.

For years before J. Christian Adams was named to Trump’s voter fraud commission, he led a private group that sent letters and in some cases brought lawsuits against counties alleging that they had bloated voter rolls in violation of the National Voter Registration Act. To make those claims, he has compared the Census Bureau’s estimate of the number of a county’s citizens of voting age to the number of registered voters on its rolls.

The formula is invoked in the latest batch of laters his group, the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), sent to 248 counties, according to a press release on its website last week.

“In short, your county has significantly more voters on the registration rolls than it has eligible, living, citizen voters,” the letters said, according to a sample posted by PILF.

However, as Kimball Brace, president of Election Data Services, testified at the voter fraud commission’s second meeting in New Hampshire last month, the comparison is not as simple as it looks.

The data, he noted, comes from two different sources and is collected at two different times. Citizen voting age population typically comes from the Census’ American Community Survey, which comes with a margin of error, and is usually released well after an election.

Voter registration numbers meanwhile are measured right before elections, when the numbers tend to be at their highest. They might also include 16 or 17 years olds who legally in some states are allowed to register early, as well as voters at military institutions in the area, Brace noted.

Estimates are estimates, and that’s part of what we have today,” Brace said.

That testimony didn’t stop Adams from using the formula in the latest letters, which were sent to counties that PILF says have anywhere from 101 percent to 169 percent registered voters versus adults of voting age.  The letters, according to the sample, go on to request an assortment of records from the locality as well as more information about their voter roll maintenance procedures.

PILF hasn’t had much success in the lawsuits that it’s brought against counties. Most have either been settled in agreements that are far more modest than what the group initially requested or have been defeated in court. One lawsuit is pending in Florida that could give the PILF its first legitimate legal victory in its purge campaign and more ammo in its threats to sue other counties. Already, voting rights advocates worry the letters alone are enough to pressure some resource-strapped counties into sloppy purges that inadvertently kick eligible voters off the rolls.

It appears that Adams has already played a role in the controversial data requests the President’s voter fraud commission made of state election officials in June, which advocates also worry will be manipulated to provide an inaccurate picture of registration fraud.

A court document this week filed in one of the lawsuits against the commission revealed Adams — along with Hans von Spakovsky, a commissioner who is on the board of directors at PILF — was on an email exchange with commission vice chair Kris Kobach discussing the data request, an exchange that occurred before Adams’ selection for the committee formally was announced.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tierney Sneed is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked for U.S. News and World Report. She grew up in Florida and attended Georgetown University.
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