Another Trump distraction: Why America doesn’t need a voter fraud commission
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You have just been elected President of the United States.

The intelligence community reports that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election and may do so again.

So, what do you do?

If you are Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpNational Archives says it altered Trump signs, other messages in Women's March photo Dems plan marathon prep for Senate trial, wary of Trump trying to 'game' the process Democratic lawmaker dismisses GOP lawsuit threat: 'Take your letter and shove it' MORE, you appoint a Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity to investigate illegal voting by Martians.

OK, the commission is investigating illegal voting by people. But Martians might as well have been included within the commission’s mandate because there is as much evidence of widespread Martian voter fraud as there is of the human kind, which to say, as attested to by academic experts and election officials, there is none.

The commission, which was appointed after Trump claimed that between three and five million unauthorized immigrants cast illegal ballots for Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSupreme Court agrees to hear 'faithless elector' cases Poll: Sanders holds 5-point lead over Buttigieg in New Hampshire Climate 'religion' is fueling Australia's wildfires MORE (not co-incidentally, more than her winning margin in the popular vote), raises the question, what is going on here?


To answer that, I turned to accounts of the Halloween Night CBS radio performance of “War of the Worlds” nearly 80 years ago (no one said this can’t be fun).

On October 30, 1938, Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre players dramatized the H.G. Wells story about an invasion of earth by Martians. The radio program began with the interruption of an orchestra performance for a “live” on scene report about a large metal cylinder that had just landed in New Jersey. “ . . . Something’s happening . . . The top is rotating like a screw . . . someone’s crawling out of the hollow top . . . It’s another and another . . . the eyes are black and gleam like a serpent’s . . ” Screams in the background.

An announcer breaks in — the broadcast from New Jersey has been cut off. More reports: Martian spaceships have landed elsewhere, the governor of New Jersey has declared martial law, the president has declared a national emergency, the Army Air Corps has been destroyed, and people are urged to evacuate cities because the Martians are using poison gas.

The program was interrupted by explanations that this was only a radio play. Even so, tens of thousands of Americans panicked.

Police switchboards were jammed by frightened callers asking about protective measures; in a single Newark block, 20 families rushed out of their homes with wet handkerchiefs and towels over their faces; and college students fought over telephones to call their parents to come get them.

Before New York City policemen finally burst into the CBS studio to stop the broadcast, hundreds of physicians and nurses had called Newark Police Headquarters to offer their services to aid the “injured.

The “War of the Worlds” was a well-intended “frightnight” that had the unintended consequence of inspiring real fear that overcame reason and common sense. The claim of millions of unauthorized immigrant voters by Trump and his minions, who seem to regard the truth as something for fools and losers, are just as fictional as the 1938 invasion by Martians.

Behind it is Trump’s insecurity over his legitimacy as President since he lost the popular vote and, according to Democrats and civil rights groups, an excuse for making it harder for minorities to register and vote.

But the claim also reflects a constant Trump fear-inducing theme that echoes the “War of the Worlds” – scary aliens are in our midst.

But guess what?

Fear did not prevail and common sense did.

The voter fraud commission's request to states to produce their voter rolls, including identifying information for 200 million voters such as birth dates and partial social security numbers, have been rebuffed in whole or in part, by 44 states (“They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico,” famously said the Mississippi secretary of state).

While this is partly due to state law prohibitions on such disclosure, state officials also appear to understand that we need a voter commission as much as the country in 1938 needed a commission to investigate America’s readiness to repel a Martian invasion.

Gregory J. Wallance is a writer, lawyer, former federal prosecutor, and the author of the forthcoming: “The Woman Who Fought An Empire: Sarah Aaronsohn and Her Nili Spy Ring.” Follow him on Twitter @gregorywallance.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.