Hundreds of activists from a wide array of groups braved near triple digit heat and an overzealous Secret Service detail on Wednesday to deliver a simple message to President Trump’s “election integrity” commission: protect and expand voting rights despite executive branch attempts to do the opposite.
“We are watching, we are organizing, we are here to make sure that every eligible voter can vote!” Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn told the crowd gathered in Lafayette Park, just across the street from the White House.
Flynn was part of a parade of speakers including representatives of the Hip Hop Caucus, Public Citizen, People for the American Way (PFAW), The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Democracy Initiative (DI), Democracy Spring, and Democracy Awakening.
The Hip Hop Caucus, the event’s organizer, reports that 14 states implemented restrictive voting laws leading up to the 2016 election, disenfranchising thousands of voters.. For example, in Wisconsin, nine percent of the electorate lacks the identification required to vote under the state’s strict voter ID laws. In North Carolina, a federal court ruled that a package of restricting laws was drafted to “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.”
The rally was staged in response to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity’s inaugural meeting. Vice President Mike Pence is chairing the Commission, alongside Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach ,who many of the speakers argued is a longtime vote suppressor.
Other members of the “Sham Commission” — as Common Cause President Flynn dubbed it — include Hans Von Spakovsky, J. Christian Adams, and former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, all of whom have been supportive of vote-suppressing laws or have peddled unsupported claims about voter fraud.
Common Cause is suing the “Sham Commission,” charging that its attempts to build a national voter database violate the federal Privacy Act. The commission has asked state election officials to share a catalog of personal information about voters: at least 45 states have refused at least part of the request..
Kristin Clark, presidentt and executive director of the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights, said that the Pence-Kobach commission’s entire existence is “predicated on a lie.”
Former Common Cause President Miles Rapoport, now a senior fellow at Harvard University’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, said the idea behind the commission was not inherently bad. There are many things an election integrity commission could work to fix, including decrepit voting machines, voter suppression laws, and foreign interference in U.S. elections, but the commission is instead focusing on a nonexistent problem, he asserted.
While rally organizers had a permit for the non-violent gathering, Secret Service agents brandished their weapons just 15 minutes into the event as they moved the demonstrators away from a spot just across the street from the White House to an area deeper inside Lafayette Park.
Office: Common Cause National