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CNN Special Reports
Democracy In Peril, The War On Voting Rights. Aired 9-10p ET
Aired November 03, 2018 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[21:00:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at how close he is.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wisconsin barely in play.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a reliably Democratic state.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was pretty clear that this was an earthquake. It was a shock.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 2016 election was the first in 50 years without the full protections of the voting rights act.
KYUNG LAH, DEMOCRACY IN PERIL, THE WAR ON VOTING RIGHTS, CNN: Voters blocked from ballot boxes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm trying to stop voters from committing fraud.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These voter I.D. laws are not to prevent voter fraud but to keep certain people from the polls.
LAH: Voters stifled by rigged maps.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My neighborhood has been split. The line was drawn right through it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hasta la vista to gerrymandering.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Voter suppression is not a conspiracy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you make it harder to vote then we should make it a lot harder for you to get re-elected.
LAH: Now a new front in the war on voter rights.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What it takes is the boots on the ground.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The time has come for voter I.D.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got to spring into action.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the time is getting more urgent.
LAH: Tonight, a CNN special report, "Democracy in peril, the war on voting rights."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: CNN now projects that Donald Trump will carry the state of Wisconsin.
KENNETH MAYER, PROFESSOR, POLITICAL SCIENCE UNIVERSITY OF MADISON: Wisconsin traditionally has some of the highest vote turnout in the country. We are up there with Minnesota, North Dakota, we routinely have turnout in the 60 percent to 70 percent range of the voting age population.
LAH: Yet in 2016 -- Wisconsin saw its lowest voter turnout since 2000.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, a historic moment.
BARRY BURDEN, DIRECTOR, ELECTION RESEARCH CENTER: It had been seven Presidential elections in a row where a Democrat had won the state. To think that Donald Trump could do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will carry Wisconsin.
BURDEN: -- what George w. Bush couldn't do, Mitt Romney couldn't do or John McCain.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I won't let you down.
BURDEN: As previous Republican candidates was sort of unthinkable.
TRUMP: The numbers are not what people think.
LAH: Trump carried the state of Wisconsin by only 23,000 votes.
Where were you election night and do you recall watching the returns?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was in Wisconsin.
LAH: Ari Berman is the author of "Give us the ballot," one of the most comprehensive books on voting rights in America.
ARI BERMAN, AUTHOR, GIVE US THE BALLOT: I had been with people all day who either were turned away from the polls or who had to make multiple attempts to vote.
LAH: So how did Trump win the traditionally blue state of Wisconsin? What happened?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is not it the outcome we wanted.
LAH: As the dust from the 2016 election settled, pundits continuously pointed to the same factors that could have swung the state.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You wrote the letter by FBI Director James Comey.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Didn't go to the Wisconsin.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: WikiLeaks. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Russians didn't tell Hillary Clinton to ignore
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Comey was instrumental in her defeat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think she was treated fairly.
LAH: But others believed there was something else that loom much larger.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The media totally missed another question.
LAH: Something that didn't get nearly as much attention as Hillary Clinton missteps in the state.
BERMAN: Which was more people going to be able to vote in the first place? That is the most underlying thing in a democracy and I think a lot of people ignored that. Based on what I had been seeing not only on election day but all the months before of people being turned away from the polls this was a concerted Republican strategy to try to make it as difficult as possible for certain people to vote.
LAH: Berman says the strategy to drive down Democratic turnout in Wisconsin and beyond came after President Obama took office.
BERMAN: This is their response to the election of the first black President.
[21:05:00] Their first instinct is to make it harder to vote. To try to decrease turnout among the Obama coalitions. The goal was to keep people from voting.
LAH: Is there a leader of the voter suppression movement in the state?
BERMAN: Scott Walker and all of the Republican officials there. They've all been in on this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you on behalf of the people of the great state of Wisconsin.
LAH: Since taking power is, Governor Scott Walker, a Republican lawmakers have chipped away at voting rights in Wisconsin. In 2011, citing a need to prevent voter fraud, Walker enacted the state's restrictive voter I.D. Law.
MAYER: It's probably one of the strictest voter I.D. laws in the country. It requires a voter to show one of a small set of I.D. s. Has to have a photo, has to have a signature, has to be an expiration date requirements.
NEIL ALBRECHT, ELECTION COMMISIONER, MILWAUKEE: Lawmakers in Wisconsin eliminated the role of a corroborating witness. The other was the proof of residence document, something like a bank statement or utility bill, but if you go back to that very transient population, how is a member of that population going to be able to prove their residence?
MAYER: 2016 was the first big general election where the voter I.D. law was in effect.
BURDEN: You have thousands of people, maybe tens of thousands of people whose right to vote is interfered with or obstructed.
TRUMP: I Donald John Trump.
LAH: After the election -- political scientist Kenneth Maier conducted a survey of registered voters in Wisconsin's twos largest county who's did not vote in 2016.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What the numbers indicated is that there may have been about 11 percent of people who didn't vote in our survey said that one of the reasons they didn't vote was they didn't have an I.D. in Milwaukee and Dane counties which are the two the biggest counties in the state. We're talking about just in these two counties. Somewhere in the range of 6,000 to 13,000 people.
LAH: Was that enough Wisconsin voters to sway the outcome? Election experts did the math.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald Trump won the state by less than 1 percentage point. It was about 23,000 votes. From Ken Maier's study we know that there were tens of thousands of people in these two big counties and probably more in the rest of the state who were deterred from voting because of the I.D. requirement. The vast majority would have been Democratic voters. So, I think it's not hard to see that the I.D. requirement probably had enough of a depressive effect.
TRUMP: She fought very hard.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That it could have denied Clinton the victory.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it a determinative factor? No. Was it a factor? Absolutely.
LAH: What do you say to people like the governor of Wisconsin? He called it a pile of crap regarding voter I.D. laws.
BERMAN: Voter suppression is a factors, not a theory. You can read the court opinions. In Wisconsin they found 300,000 registered voters didn't have the forms of I.D. I know Scott Walker probably doesn't want to read my articles, but it's out there.
LAH: Governor Walker declined CNN's request for an interview.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Voters in this state are going to have a very clear choice.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it is extremely possible that that is what happened.
LAH: Former Attorney General Eric Holder. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not saying it's a guarantee but it is entirely
possible had all those people not been disenfranchised that the results in Wisconsin might have been different.
LAH: So you don't think it was just some accident?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I don't think it was an accident at all. I think they actually got what it is that they wanted. They impacted the electorate.
LAH: Coming up, the crusaders. And later.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The form of voter fraud that we see most frequently is double voting.
[21:10:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
MOLLY MCGRATH, VOTING RIGHTS CRUSADER: We're just talking to folks today to see if you guys have any questions about voting at all.
Hi, my name is Molly.
LAH: The voting rights crusader Molly McGrath, the age old American tradition of grassroots organizing is still the best strategy.
MCGRATH: We are just talking to folks today to see if you guys are registered to vote, if you need a Wisconsin state I.D.
LAH: 36-year-old McGrath, now a prominent voice in her home state, found a rather indirect path into voting rights advocacy.
Hey, how is it going? .
MCGRATH: I was Miss Wisconsin. That was kind of my first job after college.
LAH: So you're a beauty queen talking about voting rights?
MCGRATH: Yes. Should I go get my crown?
LAH: After serving out her pageant term, McGrath earned her law degree in New York.
MCGRATH: I found myself learning more and more about the suppress sub tactics that states were taking and that this I.D. law was going to be in place in Wisconsin in 2016 for the first time and I knew that this was something that I wanted to work on.
We know that not having an I.D. is a big problem.
I pivot, I think between feeling really sad about it and really angry about it. And then of course, incredibly motivated.
LAH: So motivated she moved back home. Where she now runs the ACLU's voter I.D. outreach program. MCGRATH: When Wisconsin passed this photo I.D. law they added a whole
other hoop for voters to jump through and trying to lower that hoop, let's say. We want to make sure that everybody can vote even in spite of this photo I.D. law.
We can try again but I think they're probably not home.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
LAH: Today, Molly and her team of volunteers are on the ground in Racine, just outside Milwaukee.
MCGRATH: These laws have been in place long enough where we see the communities targeted. We know that it's targeting low income voters, voters of color, students. Older voters.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Talking to the lady across the street. They just moved her polling location. That really piss me off. Folks in this neighborhood that don't have a ride. That is a serious.
LAH: So she is this experience and the change unique just to this state?
MCGRATH: Unfortunately, no. We've seen an increase of laws that make it harder to vote.
LAH: In other states.
MCGRATH: In other states across the nation.
LAH: According to the Brennan Center for Justice, since 2010, 23 states have passed new voting restrictions. From limits on same day registration and early voting to photo I.D. requirements like the one in Wisconsin.
[21:15:03] ALBRECHT: I think that 2016 Presidential election really demonstrated the impact of those changes.
LAH: In the 2016 Presidential election, voter turnout was down statewide. But the decline in Milwaukee's poorest minority neighborhoods was jaw dropping.
ALBRECHT: We lost 41,000 voters in the City. We saw a near 20 percent decrease in voter participation from 2012 to 2016. I have no doubts that there were people in the City of Milwaukee who didn't vote in that election, because of the photo I.D. requirement.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel like they really, really knew that the turnout this election would have not been the same, because a lot of people would not have their I.D.s.
LAH: Andrea Anthony was one of the thousands of Milwaukee residents who was unable to cast a ballot in 2016.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The rights of voters is so important to me because it makes my little voice a bigger one. LAH: Andrea had lost her driver's license but brought her expired
Wisconsin I.D. to the poll instead. For this election, that wasn't enough.
MCGRATH: If you go and vote in Wisconsin you don't have one of the I.D.s listed on that very limited list, you are given what's called a provisional ballot and that is a ballot that will only count if you present one of those I.D.s to your clerk by Friday at 4:00.
LAH: Between juggling two jobs and caring for her children and grandchildren, needless to say Andrea never made it to City hall. So for the first time in her life, she says, her vote wasn't counted. Andrea was planning to vote against Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel in a way like I -- and I know I'm probably putting too much on my shoulders, but I feel like maybe if I did follow through with it, it could have made a difference.
LAH: What do you say to the argument that it's not that hard to get an I.D.?
MCGRATH: It might not be that hard for somebody like me, but it is hard for sorry people for somebody like Anne.
Hi, Anne. It's good to meet you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, molly. Finally meet you.
MCGRATH: Yes, I'm so excited to get an I.D. today.
LAH: Anne is 92 years old and lives alone on the outskirts of Madison. She is a lifelong Democrat and has never missed the chance to make her voice heard.
LAH: Did you vote in this election for JFK.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, heavens yes.
LAH: She didn't realize she now needed an updated I.D. to vote in Wisconsin until Molly came knocking.
MCGRATH: That is good. I can get in.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In like Flynn.
MCGRATH: All right. Yep.
LAH: What do you think about these changes, you know, having to have your I.D.?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't understand why. What can an old lady like me do to hurt voting?
This is the way we always come so --
They're making mountains out of mole hills is what they're doing that is causing more problems than we don't needed.
LAH: You're walking faster than I am.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think they care about us as people anymore. They really don't.
LAH: Coming up --
TRUMP: The time has come for voter I.D.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is a campaign against democracy going on in this country right now.
[21:20:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, the President of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I speak tonight for the dignity of man and the destiny of democracy.
ALBRECHT: You know, there's a long history of disenfranchisement in the south.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The harsh fact is that in many places in this country, men and women are kept from voting. Simply because they're Negros.
ALBRECHT: Everything from poll taxes, literacy tests, doing all the kinds of things that you could legally do to somehow make it more difficult for people of color generally African-Americans in particular, to cast a ballot.
The march from Selma to Montgomery was about getting people the right to vote. We had been in Pettus Bridge incident was all about the right to vote. All of that led to the 1965 voting rights act.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today is a triumph for freedom.
BERMAN: So you think that would have settled it, the law is passed. That is it. Let's move on but what happened is there are more and more sophisticated attacks on the voting rights act and on the right to vote.
LAH: Perhaps the biggest blow to voting rights in America came not from the new legislation, but from a single decision by the nation's highest court in Shelby County versus Holder.
BERMAN: In June of 2013 -- the Supreme Court gutted can the voting rights act.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: This is really the end of a major era in American history.
LAH: Nearly 50 years after President Lyndon Johnson signed the voting rights act into law, a key provision of the landmark legislation was struck down. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am deeply disappointed, deeply disappointed with
the court's decision in this matter.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This decision restores an important constitutional order.
LAH: Edward Bloom is a conservative legal strategist behind the Shelby County lawsuit and dozens of other lawsuits challenging race related laws across the country.
EDWARD BLOOM, CONSERVATIVE LEGAL STRATEGIST: There will always be racism in this country. The question is, how do we diminish it? If you tell me the way to diminish racism is to grant preferences to those who have suffered I'm telling you, that is the wrong answer.
LAH: In the Shelby County case, Bloom took aim at section 5 of the voting rights act. The provision which gave the federal government authority to oversee election laws in a handful of states, states with the long histories of racism and voter discrimination.
[21:25:07] BLOOM: Section 5 was a product of 1965. It is no longer 1965. African-Americans participate in the polls. The nation changed. Politics changed. But that statute didn't change. Now, everyone is on equal judicial footing.
LAH: What do you think of people saying that these protections are not needed anymore?
ERIC HOLDER, FORMER PRESIDENT OBAMA'S ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, I say that yes, we have made substantial progress but we're not yet at the place where people have equal access to the polls.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's undeniable that over the last few years, almost every one of the new restrictions that we've seen disproportionately affects voters of color and voters of lesser means.
LAH: Including recent attempts by Republican-backed officials to shutter polling sites that don't have the disability access. Voting rights advocates say these attempted closures are likely yet another veiled tactic to disenfranchise minorities.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very suspicious and it suggests that there's something nefarious going on if more evidence comes out, and that evidence suggests that these are intentional efforts to suppress minority voting, it wouldn't surprise me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it's not that we've gone back. It's actually that the civil rights movement never ended.
LAH: 37 year-old Jason Kander, the former Secretary of State in Missouri and army veteran, is a leading voice amongst Democrats in the new fight for voting rights in America.
When the heart of the VRA was gutted, what was your reaction to that?
JASON KANDER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE IN MISSOURI: My reaction to that was one disappointment, and two, a sense that we've got to gear up because it was a starting pistol for the Republican Party to say go out and pass all your laws that make it harder to vote.
We believe that in America in 2018, if you make it harder to vote then we should make it a lot harder for you to get reelected. That is what we think.
LAH: We met Kander in July in Las Vegas.
KANDER: Send that to her as soon as we're done.
LAH: Where the grassroots organization he founded in 2017 let America vote is opening one of five new field offices in the run-up to the 2018 midterms.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How's it going?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks for joining us.
KANDER: It became really clear to me that the voter suppression strategy I had seen the Republicans run at the state level in Missouri when I was the Secretary of State that that was about to be run on a national level and the way that looks is basically this. Step one is to undermine faith in American democracy.
TRUMP: I'm afraid the election is going to be rigged. I have to be honest.
KANDER: Step two they create obstacles to voting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I strongly support voter I.D. laws.
KANDER: And step three they create obstacles to those obstacles.
TRUMP: They're voting like really early. And we have to discuss that early thing.
KANDER: I argue it is the number one strategy of the Trump re- election campaign.
LAH: How can you be so sure it's a strategy?
KANDER: I've had plenty of Republican elected officials speak with me privately and tell me they're disgusted by what they hear in the Republican caucus meetings and it absolutely is a political strategy and they secretly tell me that they really appreciate what I'm doing.
Making it harder to vote that is an un-American thing to do.
There is a campaign against democracy going on in this country right now. And the Republican Party has just embraced it.
TRUMP: The time has come for voter I.D. Like everything else. Voter I.D.
LAH: Next. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Democracy is supposed to be responsive to the
voters. And you know, like that seems like a lie.
[21:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're on our way to meeting the people who could change the very rules of gerrymandering.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can look at how crazy it is with all these different lines.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's not democracy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No other word for it, we got screwed.
LAH: Everyone in this room is part of a landmark case that has made its way to the Supreme Court.
WENDY SUE JOHNSON, PLAINTIFF, GILL V. WHITFORD: If you get down into the black level, it goes back and forth like a snake.
LAH: Wendy Sue Johnson is a lifelong Wisconsinite and one of the plaintiffs in Gill v. Whitford, the challenge by Democratic voters to state legislative maps drawn by Republican lawmakers in 2011. Johnson argues those districts gave the GOP an unfair advantage in winning state House seats.
JOHNSON: So my house is in the 91st Assembly District which is a new district that was drawn around the city of Eau Claire, and then on the other side of the street, my neighbor Russ (ph) and the Millers were left in the 68th Assembly District, so the line literally goes down my street.
LAH: Drawing those lines to favor your political party is called gerrymandering, considered by many to be another form of voter suppression.
RUTH GREENWOOD, ATTORNEY: I know that, you know, millions of Americans don't have a say in their democracy. That's not OK.
LAH: Ruth Greenwood may be the most unlikely crusader in the fight for fair maps in the U.S.
How odd is it that an Australian expat is carrying the mantle for democracy?
GREENWOOD: I don't know. Maybe it's that you need to come from outside to realize how crazy the system really is.
LAH: Greenwood studied election law at Columbia University in New York, where she met her future husband, fellow lawyer, Nick Stephanopoulos. Today, she's a voting rights attorney determined to put an end to partisan gerrymandering.
GREENWOOD: I have friends who say, oh, my goodness, have you thought about this gerrymandering thing? And I'm like, literally, I've been yelling about these for years.
LAH: So have politicians.
JOHN KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's very difficult for us to try to draw these lines.
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The have been gerrymandering.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fight is rigged because of Democratic gerrymandering.
ARNORLD SCHWARZENEGGER, FORMER GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA: Hasta la vista to gerrymandering.
ARI BERMAN, AUTHOR: If you look at the districts, they're all sliced up. They run this way, they run that way, and they run that way.
[21:35:00] It's drawing districts not based on a natural concentration of people, but to try to achieve some political end by manipulating the maps.
LAH: Gerrymandering boils down to packing and cracking. Packing supporters into a small number of districts where their preferred candidates already win by huge margins, or cracking districts by scattering voters and diluting their influence.
With advances in data crunching, maps can be manipulated with laser- like precision. Winding down streets and carving out blocks to slice and dice the electorate.
That's how we get the funny shaped districts.
BERMAN: I mean, you don't just naturally get a district called goofy kicking Donald Duck based on where people live.
LAH: This one looks like an ear map (ph). It's Illinois's fourth congressional district, drawn on the wedding cake of the legal duo.
GREENWOOD: When we started out this case, people thought we were kind of crazy.
LAH: Together, they're litigating gerrymandering cases in North Carolina and Wisconsin.
GREENWOOD: At its most extreme, the practice amounts to rigging elections.
LAH: With the potential to set legal precedent for the entire nation.
NICHOLAS STEPHANOPOULOS, PROFESSOR AND LAWYER: We've seen the exact same combination of voter suppression and rampant gerrymandering in the whole set of purple states where Republicans found themselves in control after the 2010 election. LAH: In 2010's red wave, state legislatures across the country flipped from Democrat to Republican, giving the GOP control over redistricting. Two thousand twelve was the first year the newly drawn maps were used. That year, Democrats running for Congress won over one million more votes than Republicans. But the GOP sent 33 more members to the House of Representatives.
What happened with the maps in Wisconsin in 2011?
GREENWOOD: I just think this is outrageous. They had a locked room. They spent three months drawing districts that would very clearly advantage them.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Carving the maps, honing and honing them to maximize their advantage.
GREENWOOD: You have more people going and voting for Democrats and yet in Wisconsin, 60 percent of the House, you know, are Republicans. And that just feels wrong.
JOHNSON: Democracy is supposed to be responsive to the voters and, you know, like that seems like a lie.
LAH: Defenders of partisan gerrymandering say it's been around since the founding of the Republic. It's a privilege of the party in control.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tell me what democracy looks like.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE/UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is what democracy looks like.
LAH: During its 2017-2018 term, the Supreme Court heard several gerrymandering cases.
BERMAN: It's not just Republicans doing this or Democrats doing this. It's politicians doing this to try to protect their own power.
LAH: It is about power?
BERMAN: Absolutely. Gerrymandering is fundamentally about power.
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think we've got to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters and not the other way around.
LAH: Former President Obama has taken up the fight to end gerrymandering, teaming up with former Attorney General Eric Holder to create the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. The NDRC backs candidates and ballot initiatives pushing for map reforms.
ERIC HOLDER, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES: We have supported reform efforts like ballot initiatives that allow for the creation of these nonpartisan commissions to draw the lines in 2021.
LAH: While politicians take aim at voting booths, Wendy Sue Johnson and the other Wisconsin plaintiffs wait on a verdict.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're not going to give up until we can fix this thing.
[21:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LAH: July, 2017, near the West Wing.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We want to make America great again. We have to protect the integrity of the vote.
KRIS KOBACH, SECRETARY OF STATE OF KANSAS: President Trump had a concern about voter fraud, a valid concern.
LAH: The very first meeting of Trump's controversial voter fraud panel.
TRUMP: I look forward to the findings, so the full truth will be known.
KOBACH: It doesn't take a huge amount of voter fraud to tilt an election result.
LAH: Trump tapped Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to head up his Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. Back in 2016, it was Kobach who propped up Trump's claims that he would have "won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally."
KOBACH: I think the president-elect is absolutely correct when he says the number of --
KENNETH MAYER, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON: There's just no evidence. There has never been any evidence that that was true.
LAH: Kobach's assertions have made him enemy number one for voting rights advocates.
BERMAN: Kris Kobach is the architect of voter suppression nationwide. He was someone who was writing anti-immigrant legislation well before Donald Trump called Mexicans rapists and murderers.
DALE HO, ATTORNEY, ACLU: He's one of the nation's leading proponents of a myth really that non-citizens are trying to participate in our elections.
KOBACH: We have to get serious about enforcing the law against those who come in illegally.
LAH: In the mid to late 2000s, Kobach drafted and defended local ordinances in Pennsylvania, Missouri, Texas, and Nebraska. KOBACH: Don't turn a blind eye.
LAH: He wrote Arizona's controversial 'Show Me Your Papers' law that authorized police to stop anyone if there was reasonable suspicion they were undocumented.
LAH: In 2010, Kobach won his bid for secretary of state buoyed by one singular promise.
KOBACH: I will stop voter fraud in Kansas.
When I was running for secretary of state in 2010, Kansas was somewhere in the middle, but my objective was to make Kansas number one, the state with the strongest laws to discourage and deter election fraud.
[21:45:07] LAH: In 2013, Kobach ushered in some of the strictest voting limits in the nation, requiring people to show proof of citizenship when registering to vote and to present photo I.D. on election day, laws that would later be challenged over and over in federal court.
BERMAN: What we saw in Kansas was that one in seven new voters that tried to register were blocked from registering. If he's able to succeed and pass these kind of laws on a nationwide basis, it will have a very suppressive effect on voting in this country.
LAH: In 2015, claiming hundreds of non-citizens were on the voter roles, Kobach convinced the state legislature to make him the only secretary of state in the country with the power to prosecute election crimes.
LAH: How prevalent is the issue of voter fraud here in the state of Kansas?
KOBACH: The form of voter fraud that we see most frequently is double voting. People voting in Kansas and in another state in the same election.
LAH: In the three years Kobach has had the authority, at least 14 people have been found guilty of voter fraud. Most were older, many registered Republicans, often owning property in two states, like Lincoln Wilson, one of Kobach's first targets.
LINCOLN WILSON, BUSINESSMAN: I thought it was a prank call. He says, is this Lincoln Wilson? Yes, it is. And he said, the secretary of state has filed three felony charges.
LAH: Wilson was charged with double voting in three recent elections.
Are you part of a vast conspiracy to sway the election?
WILSON: No, not by any means. LAH: Wilson is a businessman who owns real estate in Kansas and Colorado. Since 2004, he's made the drive back and forth across state lines. He maintains that he never voted twice on a presidential or national ballot, but believed he had the right to vote in local elections.
Why did you think you could vote on two different ballots in two different states?
WILSON: Because the state of Colorado law says that if you meet certain requirements, you are allowed to vote for those local issues in the county that you own those taxes on.
LAH: But the state of Kansas didn't see it that way?
WILSON: State of Kansas does not see it that way.
LAH: That misunderstanding, he says, shattered his reputation.
WILSON: If I was robbing blanks, I know at some point that they're going to show up. This was a total surprise, an absolute surprise.
LAH: Wilson spent 18 months fighting Kobach's charges.
LAH: What were all the penalties you faced?
WILSON: Years of prison time and hundreds of thousands of dollars.
LAH: What was it like for you to hear that?
JAN WILSON, WIFE OF LINCOLN WILSON: It's hard to hear that and it's hard to see him go through that.
LAH: He eventually pleaded guilty to five misdemeanors and paid a fine of $6,000.
J.WILSON: I there we're very much pawns in a political pursuit.
LAH: One of the people who was prosecuted is Lincoln Wilson.
LAH: They believe that you pursued them and the other citizens for political gain.
LAH: To prove a point.
KOBACH: No, you have to deter double voting by imposing a fine on those who do it.
LAH: He voted for you twice.
KOBACH: I don't care. I don't care whether the person is a Republican or Democrat. You're not supposed to commit fraud and you can only vote once.
LAH: So far of the 15 people charged, only three have been non- citizens.
This hardly suggests that this is widespread though, out of 1.8 million voters.
KOBACH: You have to remember the convictions are just the tip of the iceberg because so few cases are discovered.
LAH: Discovering evidence and data, the goals set by that election commission formed by Trump and led by Kobach. Less than six months after its first meeting, the commission disbanded.
What happened to the commission?
KOBACH: This -- literally the commission's work ground to a halt because of all the lawsuits.
LAH: In March, the man behind Trump's voter fraud obsession was back in federal court aiming to prove his claims of widespread illegal voting. The ACLU challenged his proof of citizenship law claiming that more than 35,000 Kansans why blocked from registering to vote. Next.
KOBACH: What's at stake here is whether or not proof of citizenship moves forward in other states and whether it continues on the books in Kansas.
[21:50:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
LAH: For the legal team on the Wisconsin gerrymandering case, the wait was interminable.
GREENWOOD: We started investigating this back in 2014, really talking about it in 2013.
LAH: Then on Monday, June 18th, word came like a bolt of lightning.
GREENWOOD: Actually, I was sitting over here. Nick was sitting over there. I saw that screaming.
LAH: The ruling was a mixed bag for Ruth Greenwood.
GREENWOOD: I think I swore a lot.
LAH: The court basically punted, stating unanimously that the Wisconsin plaintiffs failed to prove they had suffered the sort of injury that will give them the standing to sue.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We can prove it.
GREENWOOD: I wanted to just win be done. We have fixed this all. We know it at that point.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Observers who are hoping that this June would be the sort of the final battle, the final countdown for gerrymandering, that's not going to happen.
BERMAN 50:420: The news for voting rights is not good. The Supreme Court upheld voter purging in Ohio. They upheld racial gerrymandering in Texas. They refused to strike down partisan gerrymandering in Maryland and Wisconsin.
LAH: Yet, there was some relief in lower courts. In North Carolina, the state court struck down its partisan map. And in Pennsylvania, the court overturned gerrymandered congressional districts, reshaping the map in time for midterms.
BERMAN: I think what happened in Pennsylvania is going to happen in the future. Meaning that where there is really bad gerrymandering, people are going to ignore the Supreme Court.
[21:55:02] They are going to try to challenge it in state court.
LAH: In Kansas, Secretary of State Kris Kobach had his day in court, and failed to support his claims of widespread voter fraud.
HO: Even Kobach's own expert witnesses, his own witnesses who were supposed to testify about the prevalence of fraud in this country, agreed that there was no evidence for his assertions.
LAH: Perhaps the most startling moment in the trial came when the ACLU's Dale Ho challenged Kobach's key witness on his methodology for finding non-citizens.
HO: One of his samples, he adjusted statistically based on whether or not people had foreign-sounding names. I put a hypothetical to them. I said, what if you came across the name Carlos Murguia? He said, that's probably a foreign name. And I said, well, you're aware, are you not, that Carlos Murguia is the name of a federal judge who sits in the same courthouse that this trial was taking place.
LAH: And this science is being used to pull the ear of the president?
HO: This science is being used to advocate for these restrictions on voting all around the country.
LAH: Kobach was held in contempt of court repeatedly during proceedings. And after two weeks of arguments, the judge struck down his restricted voting law.
MAYER: The judge came down hard on him. It exposed the fraudulence behind the claim that voter impersonation, non-citizen voting really doesn't exist in any meaningful numbers at all, much less being rampant.
LAH: With the court ruling, Kansas residents no longer have to show proof of citizenship when they register to vote.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you feel about your first day here?
KOBACH: I think it went fine.
LAH: But Kris Kobach is relentless in his crusade.
KOBACH: The case is going to be appealed.
LAH: Shouldn't the right to vote be something that's open and easier for people?
KOBACH: Not if you're a non-citizen, not if you're trying to vote fraudulently.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, sir.
LAH: Despite his stunning defeat in court, Kobach secured the Republican nomination for governor of Kansas, and says he still has Trump's ear.
He is continuing to rise within the ranks of the Republican Party. Why is his power growing?
JASON KANDER, FOUNDER, LET AMERICA VOTE: Well, I mean, I think part of his strategy is that if he keeps people from voting, then it is a lot easier for him to continue to move up the ranks. It is that simple. President Trump backs this stuff for the same reason.
TRUMP: You need I.D. In this country, the only time you don't need it in many cases is when you want to vote for a president. It's crazy.
KANDER: Somewhere there is a whiteboard at the Trump campaign reelection office, and that whiteboard has the top five strategies to win reelection, and I think all five are voter suppression strategies. This is an election where so much is on the line, including democracy.
LAH: Hanging in the balance are basic rights for millions of Americans, the right to vote and the right to fair maps.
HOLDER: This is an extremely critical year. Half of the people who will be at the table for redistricting in 2021 will be elected in 2018, the other half in 2020. And so we have to be successful this year, we have to be successful in 2020.
LAH: Democrats like Eric Holder with the NDRC are aiming for blue wave elections.
HOLDER: We have targeted 12 states as our primary targets. Seven other states that are on our watch list. If you can fix the problem in those states, you would have a very substantial impact.
BERMAN: What Democrats can do is finally break unified Republican control in places like Wisconsin.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I think we'll have a blue something. Is it going to be a wave, a tsunami, you know, a little trickle, I don't know. It's just really hard to say.
What voters need is a non-gerrymandered map. We're still waiting to prove that we can accomplish that. GREENWOOD: And time is getting more urgent. I feel like every other step of this has been completely exhausting. We are throwing ourselves into -- it's been like, we have to do this. It's worth it, it's worth it, it's worth it.
LAH: It's a battle.
HOLDER: There is no question, it's a battle. Power, illegitimately obtained, is not going to be surrendered without a fight. But I'm ready for that fight. Increasing numbers of people are ready for that fight.
MOLLY MCGRATH, ACLU: I was just about to knock on your door.
LAH: Like Molly McGrath.
MCGRATH: We just want to make sure everyone has information on how to register.
LAH: With her army of volunteers near Milwaukee. And Wendy Sue Johnson.
JOHNSON: I'm running for office.
LAH: The plaintiff from Wisconsin, now taking matters into her own hands.
JOHNSON: I decided to step up and make sure that every election matters. And contest the 68th Assembly District even though it's Republican gerrymandered.
This is still about the long haul. No, we are not having new maps for 2018, but the fight is not over.
[22:00:00] The fight is not dead.