The ill-fated “election integrity” commission set up to investigate Donald Trump’s bogus allegations of voter fraud in the 2016 presidential election went out of its way to seemingly target Latinx voters in Texas, according to newly released documents obtained by the Washington Post.
The commission—which was dissolved by the president in early January after months of ineffective saber-rattling and pushback from across the political spectrum—reportedly paid $3,500 in September for nearly 50 million Texas voter records. According to the Post, the records requested included:
Lists of voters who were active, those with canceled registrations, and those with an outdated or incorrect address on file; and a list of those who voted in the past six general elections from 2006 through 2016.
But the commission also went out of its way to check a box asking for “Hispanic surname flag notation”—a dataset of Texas voters which the state has tracked for more than 30 years in order to send bilingual election information.
The request adds credibility to the belief that the commission was created by the White House as a mechanism for disenfranchising people of color. Before it had even been launched, commission co-chair Kris Kobach had already earned a well-deserved reputation for crafting some of the most restrictive voting laws in the country. Kobach voiced support for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to pick up where he had left off when the commission was dissolved.
Kobach claimed to not know anything about the commission’s interest in Texas voters’ “Hispanic surnames,” telling the Post, “At no time did the commission request any state to flag surnames by ethnicity or race. It’s a complete surprise to me.”
He added that the staffer responsible for requesting that particular batch of voter information “did not ask any member of the commission whether he should check that box or not, so it certainly wasn’t a committee decision.”
Still, the combination of the unusual request, Kobach’s previous voter suppression efforts, and Trump’s public racism toward the Latinx community paint a compelling picture of what might have happened had the commission been allowed to continue its work.
The Post notes that Texas ultimately did not provide the records sought by the commission, thanks to one of the many lawsuits filed by voting rights activists—and multiple state officials themselves—challenging the panel.