The first time I was eligible to vote was in a local school board race. It wasn’t the sexiest or most high-stake election, but it was the first time I could elect the representatives for the school district I had lived in for the last thirteen years.
I kept up with the race from its beginning. I knew the candidates, attended public forums, asked questions, and, when the time came in April, I laced my shoes, excited to walk into my old elementary school to cast my first ballot.
As you’re probably expecting, I did not vote for the first time that day like I had hoped. To be eligible to vote in Missouri, a voter registration form must be postmarked by the fourth Wednesday before the election. Even though I had been 18 for a few months, I was turned away at the door because I had not registered in time.
Being turned away from the poll felt like a slap in the face, like my voice had been robbed by a secret, outdated rule that I and probably most Missouri voters had no idea existed. It was only a local school board election, but I deserved my right to vote. After all, that’s what the Constitution says.
As we all know, infringements on voting rights don’t stop at my local school board. On May 11, 2017, Donald Trump signed Executive Order 13799 to “study the registration and voting processes used in Federal elections” and investigate the (nonexistent) evidence of voter fraud. It created the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, chaired by Mike Pence and Kris Kobach. The Commission used its authority to request private voter data from the states for examination.
I want to make one thing clear: the Pence-Kobach voting commission is nothing more than a scare tactic. They want to intimidate you, to keep you from going anywhere near a ballot box.
And it’s working.
All over the country, people are scared about their personal information being handed over to the government and have unregistered to vote to prevent their data from being released. For too many, this breach of privacy outweighs the value of the vote.
Many states are refusing to provide their information to the Commission, but Missouri, the state where I vote, is not one of them. Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft has agreed to comply with the request; however, he is unable to hand over Social Security numbers, political affiliations, and previous voter history. In the end, Ashcroft will hand over my full name and date of birth, information that you could easily find by google searching my name.
The Pence-Kobach Commission has no teeth. It’s a complete failure. Forty four states have refused to give up all of their data. That’s why I won’t let the fear of a fraudulent commission getting their hands on my personal data dictate what’s most important to me. It is my, our, your, right to vote.
Maintaining the right to vote is the first step to keeping our democracy alive; its survival depends on you and me projecting our voices at the ballot box. More than ever before, we need to fight for our basic freedoms. We can’t let a room full of out-of-touch, partisan hacks distract us from what is right and wrong. Only we can shape the current and future state of our government, from a local school board to President of the United States. Do not let this Commission stop you from making your mark on this country.
 Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, “Examples of Legal Risks to Providing Voter Information to Fraud Commission.”
Office: Common Cause Illinois
Issues: Voting and Elections
Tags: Election Protection