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Trump's voter fraud commission is dead but Voter ID claims live on | Editorial

President Trump this week disbanded the commission he created in 2017 to prove his claims about voter fraud. He then took to Twitter to continue making those claims.

President Donald on Wednesday disbanded his Election Integrity Commission. On Thursday, he was tweeting complaints about election integrity.
President Donald on Wednesday disbanded his Election Integrity Commission. On Thursday, he was tweeting complaints about election integrity.Read moreEvan Vucci/AP

After a short and tumultuous life of seven months and 23 days, Executive Order 13799 — convening a commission to investigate voter fraud in the 2016 election — passed away on Wednesday, leaving behind a string of unsubstantiated claims about voter fraud from a president who prefers the comfort of conspiracy theory to reality.

President Trump's effort to eulogize his Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which he euthanized Wednesday, laid the blame on states for not handing over personal data about voters and exhorting them to enact Voter ID laws.

Trump, in a pair of early morning Thursday tweets, claimed states fought with his commission "because they know that many people are voting illegally" and then called for his supporters to "Push hard for Voter Identification!"

The commission may be dead. But the Voter ID issue idea may live forever, even after it was buried four years ago here in Pennsylvania.

Back in 2012, when Trump was a reality television star and not leader of the free world, Republicans in Pennsylvania's General Assembly pitched voter fraud fears to push legislation requiring voters to show state-issued photo identification at polling places.

The Voter ID law, signed into law by Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, sparked legal challenges, in part because such laws deny voting rights to minorities, the elderly, and people with low incomes.

The lawyers Corbett sent to court to defend the law got off to a rocky start, admitting they had no proof of the kind of in-person voter fraud the law was meant to remedy.

Partisan politics ran afoul of judicial prudence in, of all places, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court when Voter ID foes asked to delay implementation until after the 2012 presidential election.

While there were differing opinions among the six Supreme Court justices, there were ultimately zero votes to allow the law to be used in the election that year.

Voter ID met its end in January 2014 when another Commonwealth Court judge ruled it unconstitutional and knocked the state for offering little by way of defense but "a vague concern about voter fraud." Corbett surrendered, opting not to appeal.

Ironically, the vagueness that killed Voter ID in Pennsylvania is what keeps alive the conspiracy theory of in-person voter fraud.

Republican politicians in Harrisburg and Washington stir their conservative base with the claim, free from the requirement to prove it. It's politics, not policy.

Trump issued dire predictions about a "rigged election" in 2016 when his polling numbers slumped. He kept at it in victory, peeved that he lost the popular vote by nearly three million ballots. It was voter fraud, he assured, absent evidence.

Then came the Trump-appointed commission to provide evidence to support the new president's predetermined conclusion. It went, in a word, badly.

Still, the conspiracy continues to spin. And so the push for Voter ID will probably never truly die.

But consider this little slice of reality from the lawyers Trump sent to court between the general election and his inauguration to fight off a request for a recount in Michigan.

"All available evidence suggests that the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake," they wrote in a legal brief on behalf of Trump.