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What the demise of Trump’s voter fraud commission teaches Kansans about Kris Kobach

The demise of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity is great news for every American who values a free and fair ballot.

President Donald Trump formed the commission last May. He falsely claimed millions of illegal votes cost him a popular vote victory in 2016, and he wanted an investigation to prove it.

The commission, led by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, met just twice. It eventually crumpled under an avalanche of lawsuits, secrecy, poor management and discord.

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Few will regret the commission’s collapse. This saves the nation from a final report Kobach and others undoubtedly would have used to restrict voter rights in advance of the 2018 midterm elections.

It must be repeated: There is no evidence of widespread voter impersonation fraud in the United States. There is no evidence that millions of votes were cast illegally in 2016. No legitimate commission investigation would have found otherwise.

Despite its ugly end, the commission — paid for by taxpayers — did damage. It allowed conspiracy-minded Americans to press their case for nonexistent voter fraud, with Kobach as their champion.

Fair-minded Americans know the truth. Our real election challenges have nothing to do with voter fraud.

A legitimate election commission would have acknowledged that reality. It would have examined aging equipment, complicated registration procedures, inconvenient voting times and days, and the potential for electronic interference with casting ballots.

A legitimate commission would have studied the impact of voter ID requirements on turnout, particularly with elderly and minority voters. It would have called for the end of Crosscheck, a haphazard and costly effort to disenfranchise voters.

A legitimate commission would have explored ways to expand the electorate, to make sure everyone who can cast a legal ballot has a chance to do so.

Kobach is not interested in that. Neither is Trump.

Kansans have paid particular attention to the controversy surrounding the commission, given Kobach’s current job as secretary of state. He’s also a candidate for governor.

The commission’s history should help Kansas voters evaluate his candidacy for the state’s highest office.

The election integrity group had all the hallmarks of a classic Kobach operation — headline-grabbing allegations, poor legal review, finger-pointing followed by inaction, contradictory claims, and eventually, collapse. Kansans will need to decide if that’s how they want the governor’s office to operate.

Finally, Americans should be concerned with the White House announcement that some remaining commission data will be turned over to the Department of Homeland Security.

The department “was created with the primary purpose of protecting this country from the real threat of terrorist attacks, not to waste its resources on chasing the unicorn of voter fraud,” Kristen Clarke of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law said in a news release Thursday. She’s right.

The right to vote is precious and fundamental. The welcome end of this commission helps protect that right, for which we should all be grateful.

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