National Urban League
“We write to you to express our most urgent concern that letters just issued by the Trump Administration will pave the way for nationwide voter suppression and purging, and violate the privacy of hundreds of millions of American citizens … We have little doubt that these letters – issued unilaterally without any vote or public discussion – would lead to an unprecedented, nationwide voter suppression effort.” – Congressional Black Caucus letter to National Association of Secretaries of State, June 30.
It was clear from the moment it was announced that the federal “Election Integrity Commission” was nothing more than a vehicle for voter suppression.
With an intrusive request for personal voter information, the commission has ventured into the territory of intimidation. Fortunately, state officials aren’t having it. At least 44 states are refusing to comply with the request, wholly or in part.
“I find this request for the personal information of millions of Marylanders repugnant; it appears designed only to intimidate voters and to indulge President Trump’s fantasy that he won the popular vote,” Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh wrote in response to the request.
In my home state of Louisiana, Secretary of State Tom Schedler said, “My response to the Commission is, you’re not going to play politics with Louisiana’s voter data.”
Even in the deep-red state of Mississippi, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann told the Commission, “Go jump in the Gulf.”
I’m proud of the nation’s state officials for standing firm in defending the rights of their constituents and resisting an obvious ploy to invade citizens’ privacy and restrict their right to vote.
The commission’s vice chair, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, has repeatedly lost in lawsuits filed by the ACLU over his efforts to make it harder for people to register and vote. Last month, a federal magistrate judge fined him $1,000 for misleading the court by attempting to shield a document regarding his advice to Trump on how to make voter registration harder. And just this week, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed a formal Hatch Act Complaint against Kobach, accusing him of repeatedly exploiting his Commission role to promote his candidacy for Kansas Governor and to solicit campaign contributions.
“We deem the President’s Election Integrity Commission to be a baseless tool to promote voter suppression and Mr. Kobach’s unlawful abuse of his role as head of the Commission for partisan ends only underscores the illegitimacy of the Commission itself,” Lawyer’s Committee President and Executive Director Kristen Clarke said.
The 2014 report of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration – headed by Mitt Romney’s lawyer Ben Ginsberg and President Obama’s lawyer Bob Bauer – made several key recommendations:
• Modernization of the registration process through continued expansion of online voter registration and expanded state collaboration in improving the accuracy of voter lists.
• Measures to improve access to the polls through multiple opportunities to vote before the traditional Election Day and the selection of suitable, well-equipped polling place facilities, such as schools.
• State-of-the-art techniques to assure efficient management of polling places, including tools the commission is publicizing and recommending for the efficient allocation of polling place resources.
• Reforms of the standard-setting and certification process for new voting technology to address soon-to-be antiquated voting machines and to encourage innovation and the adoption of widely available off-the-shelf technologies.
It’s unlikely the current administration is looking to implement those bipartisan recommendations; the report has been removed from the federal government’s website.
With the vast majority of states opposed to cooperating with the Commission, it’s time to kill this insidious, anti-democratic sham. Kill the commission, and work together on expanding democracy.
Marc H. Morial, former mayor of New Orleans, is president and CEO of the National Urban League. He can be reached through http://nul.iamempowered.com.