American history is replete with the stories of men and women who sacrificed – sometimes with their lives - to secure or protect our freedoms, in particular the right to vote in free elections.
So no one should be surprised at the outpouring of public revulsion that has greeted the work of the Pence-Kobach Commission on “election integrity,” the Trump administration’s all-but-undisguised effort to discourage or block millions of citizens from casting ballots.
While the FBI, the CIA, and the rest of our intelligence agencies have concluded that the real threat to our elections comes from Russian-backed cyber saboteurs, the commission is focused on manufacturing “evidence” to support the president’s bogus claims that up to 5 million people voted illegally last year. It wants to compile a state-by-state database of voter records and look for duplicates to support its supposition that fraud is rampant.
There’s little dispute that registration records in many states are outdated; when people die, their names are not automatically removed from the rolls and those who move may show up on the rolls in multiple states and/or localities. But that doesn’t mean that people are voting in multiple locations or that ineligible residents are impersonating people on the rolls so they can cast a ballot. Indeed, a raft of voter integrity studies stretching over decades have agreed unanimously that the voter fraud the commission is targeting is essentially nonexistent.
Meanwhile, as of this morning (Monday), officials in 45 states and the District of Columbia – Republicans and Democrats alike - have declined at least part of the commission’s request for voter data, including the last four digits of each voter’s Social Security number. They’re concerned, rightly, that the compilation of a national voter database could endanger personal privacy and fuel efforts to deny eligible citizens their voting rights.
One group has filed suit against the commission in an effort to stop the data collection; Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the panel’s vice chair, is accused of breaking federal law by using his position on the commission to boost his candidacy for governor.
Over the weekend, more than 16,000 Americans answered an appeal from Common Cause and sent the commission a message: we understand what you’re up to and we will not be intimidated. You can add your name to theirs here.
These folks understand that the best way to protect election integrity is to make sure that every eligible American can vote and that every vote is counted as cast.
A few other people, unfortunately, are sending a different message. News reports over the weekend suggest that worries about a potential loss of privacy have driven dozens of Coloradans to remove their names from the voter rolls rather than risk having their personal information turned over to the commission and through it made available to the general public.
It’s an understandable reaction – all of us value our privacy – but it’s unnecessary and it plays right into the hands of the commission’s clear desire to suppress voting. The states have made it clear that the commission is not going to get all the data it’s seeking and the laws that protect the privacy of every vote remain in force. To honor those who through our history have stood up for our right to vote, each of us must stand up for that right today.
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: Voting and Elections