There’s a branch in philosophy called epistemology that deals with the theory of knowledge. How do we know what we know? How do we know what is true? What is believable? And what are the criteria we use to tell whether something is true or not?
Considering his constant refrain of “fake news,” maybe President Donald Trump should enroll in such a course.
Why? Because he’s focusing on issues and creating entities that don’t correspond to real problems. Trump is guilty of not knowing the difference between real problems and fake problems.
For example, consumer fraud is real, yet Trump is attempting to gut or eliminate the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
By contrast, voter fraud is virtually nonexistent, according to all credible studies, but he has put together a so-called Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity to find it.
How should we judge whether his voter fraud commission is legitimate or not? Using reason is a good way to start.
First, consider motive. What’s the purpose of establishing the commission?
Trump has argued that our state-based election systems are full of voter fraud. He believes it’s why he lost the popular vote.
However, Republican and Democratic secretaries of state, those who oversee the election process, have disputed his claim by affirming their voter registration rolls are sound, elections are fairly run and vote counts are accurate.
As a result of his view, many believe the commission was established to “prove” that Trump is right, that he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million votes because there were up to 5 million illegal votes cast for Clinton.
Second, look at actions. The commission’s first act was to send a letter to all 50 secretaries of state, plus the District of Columbia, requesting voter data on every American, including such sensitive personal information as home address, party affiliation, age, voting history, military status, criminal record (if any) and partial Social Security numbers.
Most states refused to comply, objecting to sending it over non-secure connections without the ability to protect it. Others had concerns about centralizing such information, and there was no clearly stated purpose of how the information would be used.
Some feared the commission would use “crosscheck,” a system with a history of carelessly matching voters’ names between states and deleting one as a duplicate.
The Justice Department also sent a letter demanding to know how states were going to “clean up” their voting lists — code for deleting voters, a practice used in the past in racially discriminatory ways.
Third, look at the commission’s composition, its members’ histories and their orientation with respect to voting rights. Currently there are 10 members, six Republicans and four Democrats. Vice President Mike Pence is the chair and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is the co-chair.
The commission’s members make up a rogues gallery and a dream team of voter suppression. Prior to becoming vice president, Mike Pence was governor of Indiana and used “voter fraud” to support a statewide crackdown on registering African Americans.
Pence supported the 2005 Supreme Court decision that found an Indiana voter ID law constitutional. He supports Trump’s false claim that millions voted illegally.
Kris Kobach is known as the “King of Voter Suppression,” a reputation he has earned by disenfranchising one in seven Kansans and by spreading his crosscheck system to states nationwide.
Another Republican commission member, Ohio’s former Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, shortchanged African-American voting sites of an adequate number of voting machines, resulting in long lines. He also tried to disenfranchise voters by insisting that all voter registration forms be rejected if they were submitted on paper thinner than a postcard. He was the subject of 14 lawsuits regarding election irregularities.
Republican commission member Hans von Spakovsky was a Justice Department official in the Civil Rights Division under President George W. Bush and strongly argued against reauthorizing the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Connie Lawson, Indiana’s secretary of state, is proud of having co-written her state’s voter ID law that spread nationwide, even though the law has since suffered federal judicial defeats in Texas and Wisconsin (2011), and in North Carolina and North Dakota (2013).
Finally, while the commission’s goals have not been clearly stated, it seems obvious the real purpose of the commission is twofold: to validate Trump’s claim he would have won the popular vote in 2016 if not for illegal voters, and to lay the groundwork for nationalizing voter suppression legislation, making it more difficult for people of color, women, workers, young people, seniors and the disabled — traditional Democratic constituencies — to vote.
Conclusion? The fraud commission is fraudulent.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. is president and founder of the Rainbow Push Coalition.