This week, Trump’s commission on voter fraud held its first investigative hearing. Already, it’s laying the foundation for voter suppression.
Almost 60 years ago to the day after the Voting Rights Act was signed into law by Dwight D. Eisenhower, President Trump’s commission met in New Hampshire to initiate the process of gradually unraveling one of our democracy’s most powerful legislative accomplishments.
The “Presidential Advisory Commission on Voter Integrity” is led by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, and it consists of current and former politicians, lawyers, and bureaucrats, all of whom have a history of advocating for voter suppression. Kobach’s record may be the most troubling.
Mr. Kobach is the author of a law designed to preclude Kansans from voting in state and local elections if they registered at the DMV without providing proof of citizenship. If the rule had not been blocked by a county judge in Kansas, more than 17,000 legal American votes would have been tossed out.
Sham commission Vice-Chair Kobach also has a tendency to make up facts when it comes to election integrity. This past week, Kobach penned an op-ed in Breitbart attributing thousands of votes for Hillary Clinton and Maggie Hassan in the 2016 elections to voter fraud. He referenced New Hampshire’s same-day voter registration laws as the means by which these people allegedly voted illegally. Kobach’s claims were quickly debunked by experts who showed that the “voter fraud” Kobach had uncovered were likely New Hampshire college students legally using their home-state identification to vote.
Contrary to the claims of Kobach and the voter fraud commission, there is no actual evidence that suggests people vote illegally in elections, at least not nearly to the degree they claim. Between 2000 and 2010, 649 million votes were cast in general elections and there have been only 13 credible instances of voter impersonation. That’s a voter fraud rate of .0000002 percent. The math speaks for itself.
Voter suppression, however, is a very real threat to American democracy and its impact on our elections is proven by recent studies. Some of the most damaging voter suppression legislation in our country has come in the form of voter identification laws. Presenting photo identification may seem like a standard requirement to cast a vote, but more than 21 million Americans don’t have a government issued photo ID. Photo ID requirements would prevent roughly 11 percent of Americans from accessing the voter box.
Since 2011, 34 states have implemented voter ID laws, suppressing the votes of nearly 4 million Americans. The precedent for coded voter suppression laws is relatively new, as there were no laws requiring photo ID in this country before 2006.
But rather than working to ensure that all Americans have a fair opportunity to have their voices heard in our elections, Kobach and his sham voter fraud commission were hard at work this week setting a new precedent for voter suppression strategies.
John Lott, the author of the book More Guns, Less Crime, was empaneled by Trump’s sham commission to weigh in on how to solve America’s non-existent voter fraud problem. Mr. Lott proposed the implementation of criminal background checks for voters in order to “make sure the right people are voting.” This unconstitutional practice would discourage people from participating in our democracy and registering. Eligible citizens should not be shamed or condemned for past crimes for which they’ve served, rather they should be applauded for reentering society with a desire to have their voices heard in the electoral process.
One would think, given its name, that President Trump’s “Presidential Advisory Committee on Voter Integrity” would be put in place to mitigate the suppression of the American vote. That, however, is far from their goal. Instead, they aim to make the constitutional right to vote a privilege.
I was born and raised in Selma, Alabama, and it is now with great pride that I represent the historic city as their congresswoman. I have seen all my life the way the voter suppression can hinder not only a community, but an entire nation. The formation of Trump’s sham commission on “voter integrity” is only a preliminary step toward wide-reaching voter suppression legislation. We cannot allow that to happen.
I’m going to keep raising my voice, I’m counting on you to raise yours too.