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News Politics

Trump’s Voter Fraud Commission Panelist Floats Another Barrier to the Ballot Box

Ally Boguhn

"Seems more like an attempted (and nonsensical) 'gotcha' for liberals rather than a serious suggestion," Dale Ho, executive director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, told the Kansas City Star.

A presenter at President Trump’s commission on dubious voter fraud allegations on Tuesday suggested instituting a background check for voter registration.

John Lott, president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, spoke at the commission’s second official meeting in New Hampshire, where he proposed applying the federal background check system for gun purchases to voting, describing it as “a way to check if the right people are voting.”

In his presentation, Lott reasoned that Democrats have “long lauded background checks on gun purchases” as a constitutional system. “Doesn’t it follow that it would work for the right to vote,” Lott asked.

Speaking to the Kansas City Star on Monday ahead of the commission’s meeting, Lott clarified that running a background check on citizens to determine their eligibility to vote makes sense because there are “similar rules for whether you can own a gun and whether you can vote.”

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He told the commission that a background check would look at whether an applicant had a felony conviction, though felony convictions do not necessarily disqualify someone from voting. About 6.1 million people are disenfranchised due to felony convictions, a policy that disproportionately affects voters of color, according to the Sentencing Project.

Just four states permanently ban people with felony convictions from voting, Dale Ho, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project, told the Kansas City Star. “But the rules on firearms are much more complicated, and have different waiting periods for different kinds of crimes.”

“It’s not obvious why [background checks] would be a helpful idea for voting at all—even if you leave aside questions about practicality and possible burden on voters. Seems more like an attempted (and nonsensical) ‘gotcha’ for liberals rather than a serious suggestion,” Ho said.

Lott has argued against background checks for gun ownership. His research and analysis on guns has been criticized by scholars who say that “virtually all of Lott’s analyses are faulty.”

During his presentation, Lott also discussed discriminatory photo ID laws, which require voters to show a government-issued form of identification with a photo. Though such laws disproportionately disenfranchise voters of colors, people with low incomes, and the elderly, Lott claimed that opponents simply haven’t considered that  “people can adjust their behavior” and get an ID card.

Tuesday’s election commission meeting comes one week after the group’s co-chair, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, penned an article for the white nationalist site falsely asserting that out-of-state voters in New Hampshire illegally cast ballots in the state and thus influenced its U.S. Senate race in 2016.

There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the state.

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