Asked about his invitation to a Trump administration commission on voter fraud, Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said, “I think the outcome of the commission’s work, without prejudging it, is that they are probably not going to find a hell of a lot.”

That skepticism will serve Dunlap well as he starts work on the panel headed by Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state whose fanatical pursuit of voter fraud led his home-state paper to compare him to the obsessive Javert from “Les Miserables,” though it has gotten him no closer to finding any proof of consequential fraud.

That has been the outcome of nearly every study and exhaustive investigation into voter fraud, often conducted by people like Kobach who would like nothing more than to find it. The inability of Republicans to accept the mountain of overwhelming evidence that voter fraud does not exist in any significant manner is so obtuse that something else must be at play.

That evidence includes, but is by no means limited to, a two-year investigation by the Republican secretary of state of Iowa that found just 117 possible fraudulent votes and led to only six convictions; a 2011 Wisconsin task force that charged 20 people with illegal voting, mostly felons confused about the reinstatement of their rights; a 10-year audit in North Carolina that found 50 instances of dead people voting, with mistakes attributed to poll workers; and a 2012 Florida investigation of non-citizen voting that led to just one conviction.

Then there’s Kobach himself, who in his crusade looked at 84 million votes in 22 states — and referred just 14 cases for prosecution.

Time and time again, voter fraud is found to be exceedingly rare — rates between 0.0003 and 0.0025 percent, according to the Brennan Center for Justice; 31 credible instances out of 1 billion votes over 14 years, according to The Washington Post.


But that hasn’t stopped Republicans from saying that it is out there. Gov. Paul LePage has done it over and over again, as has President Donald Trump, who after losing the popular vote by 3 million votes, claimed for no reason other than his own ego that 3 million to 5 million people voted illegally.

That’s one of the reasons for the commission — Trump is belatedly following through on his promise to investigate the fraud there is no reason to believe actually exists.

The other is to find justification for laws, such as mandatory voter ID, that keep largely Democratic voters from casting a ballot.

That’s what happened in Maine in 2011, when an investigation by then-Secretary of State Charlie Summers meant to prove state elections were being gamed found only one case of voter fraud, and none by the college students Republicans had targeted as lawbreakers.

Still, the same rhetoric that provoked the study led the GOP-controlled Legislature to repeal earlier that year Maine’s same-day voter registration law, a move that was itself repealed by voters later.

It’s the same rhetoric, too, that has led to the proliferation of restrictive voting laws throughout the United States, including in North Carolina and Texas, where courts ruled that the laws were put in place specifically to target African-American and Hispanic voters.

And it’s the same rhetoric that without question will be rolled out by Kobach. The commission will no doubt find that dead people, noncitizens and out-of-state residents don’t vote in anything approaching meaningful numbers, but history shows he will still seek restrictive measures meant to deny people their right to vote.

We’re glad that when he does, Dunlap will be there to offer a dose of reality.

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