Representative Elijah Cummings (D–MD) is using his position as the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to threaten True the Vote, a nonpartisan tea party organization that reports voter roll inaccuracies and potential criminal violations of federal election laws around the country.
Cummings claims in his letter that True the Vote’s efforts to assure the accuracy and reliability of voter registration lists amount to “voter suppression.”
On October 4, Cummings sent True the Vote a letter (which his office released as a press release) accusing the group of engaging in a “criminal conspiracy” supposedly intended to “deny legitimate voters their constitutional rights.” But True the Vote’s efforts to identify the registrations of illegal aliens, dead voters, and individuals registered in more than one state have no such intent and can’t have any such effect.
In truth, True the Vote stands accused of doing the work that election officials ought to be doing themselves but all too often don’t.
Just a week ago, True the Vote released its latest report, which found 6,390 individuals registered in both Florida and Ohio, 534 of whom appear to have voted twice in the same federal election. They also discovered 19,000 individuals registered in both New York and Florida.
Why would Cummings not applaud such actions and True the Vote’s turning its findings over to election officials? Perhaps he’s sensitive about such shenanigans given the Maryland Democratic Party’s recent public embarrassment, in which it had to withdraw its nominee in the First Congressional District. It turned out its candidate had registered and voted illegally in both Maryland and Florida in the 2006 and 2008 elections.
Cummings also says that some of the information has turned out to be inaccurate. That will always happen when you are doing comparisons and matching between different information databases—there are no databases that are 100 percent accurate. But that is why local election officials are charged with investigating discrepancies before they take any action to actually remove a voter. Cummings seems to want no investigation made at all.
Earlier this year, a Pew Charitable Trust report found almost 3 million individuals across the country were registered in more than one state, and almost 2 million dead voters remained on the rolls. Cummings didn’t complain about the Pew report or accuse Pew of a “criminal conspiracy.” Then again, unlike True the Vote, Pew didn’t turn over its information to election officials for investigation, removal, and possible prosecution.
In any event, there is no legal basis for anyone to assert that True the Vote is somehow violating federal law. In fact, states are obligated under both the National Voter Registration Act and the Help America Vote Act to clean up their voter rolls by removing ineligible voters. And it is a violation of federal law for illegal aliens to register and vote or for any individual to vote in more than one state in the same election.
Moreover, the National Voter Registration Act—which Cummings has long claimed to support—provides a private right of action for citizens and citizen organizations like True the Vote to challenge states that do not comply with the registration clean-up requirements of the law. And every state has a law allowing citizens to challenge the eligibility of a registered voter if they have information that indicates that the voter may be ineligible or engaged in illegal activity.
Voter intimidation is a violation of the Voting Rights Act, but what True the Vote does is certainly not voter intimidation. The real question is whether Cummings’s letter is intended to intimidate True the Vote volunteers. Cummings wants records, documents, and other information from True the Vote about its research work and methods. The Congressman is trying to use his perch on the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee to wrest private information from a private organization to which he is not entitled as a single member.
Contrary to Cummings’s claims, there is nothing wrong with True the Vote’s effort to provide election officials with information about possible violations of the law that will allow them to remove noncitizens, dead voters, and other bogus voters from the voter rolls. We should all want accurate and reliable voter lists in the upcoming election. Citizens and taxpayers should not be deterred by Members of Congress from getting involved in helping to protect our election process.