Not even President Trump’s most fervent admirers take seriously the president’s claim that up to 5 million people cast illegal ballots last fall.
But Trump isn’t one to let the lack of evidence supporting his beliefs stop him from doing dumb things to advance them. So he’s created an “election integrity” commission, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, to search for voter fraud that doesn’t exist and devise new ways to depress turnout in future elections.
Now, and surely without intending to, some voters are helping the commission do its dirty work. PLEASE don’t join them.
According to press reports, several thousand voters in Florida, Colorado and Vermont have turned in their voter registrations rather than risk having personal information on their registration forms turned over to the president’s commission. The commission’s vice chair, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, has sent every state a letter requesting voter data, including the last four digits of each voter’s Social Security number, plus his or her age and party identification.
The commission wants to use the information to build a national voter database that would support Trump’s claim that large numbers of voters are registered in more than one state or locality. Duplicate registrations are no proof of voter fraud however, and many that appear to be duplicates are not. The Washington Post reported today that “Mike Pence” was registered eight times and cast seven ballots across six states last November; each came from a different person who happens to share the vice president’s name and year of birth.
“The whole point of the commission is to tilt the rules so that some people have more difficulty in getting registered and voting. It's just not right. We know this based on who’s on the commission and what they’ve done in the past,” said Allegra Chapman, Common Cause’s director of voting and elections. “But the fact is that our democracy works best when all eligible citizens vote; it’s far better to answer this attack on our elections by making it a point to register – and vote – and encouraging friends and relatives to do the same.”
While 45 states have rejected at least part of Kobach’s request, most are supplying at least some of the data. And so, some voters are opting out by de-registering. Meanwhile, Kobach on Thursday renewed his request for information that he’d previously put on hold due to litigation. Common Cause, alongside several other organizations and individuals, has filed suit against the commission for violations of the Privacy Act.
The Tampa Bay Times reports that more than 1,700 Floridians have taken themselves off the voter rolls since Kobach’s request for data became public. In Colorado, more than 3,700 reportedly have canceled their registrations.
“It really upsets people that their phone numbers, their email address... become public record,” said Mary Jane Arrington, the supervisor of elections in Osceola County, FL. “That bothers them immensely. We tell the voters when they’re (cancelling registration) that we can’t guarantee their information is not going to be sent. People are really upset. They want to know what it’s going to be used for. We can’t answer those questions.”
Jason Kander, president of the nonprofit Let America Vote, told Politico that even one de-registration is one too many. A video he released last week through social media argues that if the “data draft” intimidates voters from registering, the commission will have accomplished its goal.
And that’s exactly what our democracy doesn’t need.
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: Voting and Elections