Organized, Engaged People Score Big Victory for Voting Rights

Organized, Engaged People Score Big Victory for Voting Rights

Donald Trump’s Pence-Kobach "Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity" is no more. And that’s thanks in large part to hundreds of thousands of Americans who spoke out and stood up for the right to vote.

Donald Trump’s Pence-Kobach “Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity” is no more. And that’s thanks in large part to hundreds of thousands of Americans who spoke out and stood up for the right to vote.

Late Wednesday, the White House announced it would dissolve its phony “election integrity” commission — citing the multiple lawsuits against it, one of which was brought by Common Cause. Those lawsuits were fueled by massive grassroots support from people across the country. Their success is a helpful reminder that when we focus public attention and organize to speak out, we can stop attacks on our democracy.

The Pence-Kobach Commission was set up to manufacture “evidence” supporting the President’s false claim that there were “millions who voted illegally” in the 2016 election. It had the wrong people pushing the wrong agenda, with only partisan leadership (unlike previous bipartisan presidential commissions that worked to improve voting and voting access). It was led by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a man notorious for blocking fair access to voting. It clearly was programmed to reach pre-determined conclusions and to recommend nationwide restrictions on our right to vote (like strict photo ID laws or more aggressive purges of the voter rolls).

In September, Common Cause exposed the problems baked into the commission in our report, “Flawed From The Start,” which was shared thousands of times on social media and helped educate and mobilize the public. It was critical to push back against the lies and falsehoods of President Trump, his administration, and the radical, anti-voter agenda of this phony commission. Bipartisan elections commissions in years past have come together to propose solutions to outstanding elections problems; this commission simply wanted to fan the flames of a problem that does not exist.

But we did more than just expose the commission’s flaws; together we stopped them.

We mobilized tens of thousands of grassroots activists to watchdog the commission and expose its illegitimate purpose. Over 50,000 Common Cause members filed official public comments, demonstrating that we wouldn’t let them intimidate us out of our right to vote. You can read these — and other — public comments on the White House website.

Thousands of Americans cried foul at the commission’s illegal attempts to collect private information about every voter in the country. They made calls, sent emails and wrote letters to Secretaries of State across the country, asking the states to refuse this invasive and illegal data collection request. Numerous states refused to comply completely, and most refused to provide all the information the commission requested.

This was all possible because of public support and organizing. Common Cause — and many of the other organizations in the voting rights community — is largely funded by individual donors and powered by the energy and activism of individuals passionate about strengthening our democracy. We couldn’t do this work without your dedication and your generous yearly or monthly donations.

We know that the Secretaries of State who refused to comply with the commission’s data request (in full or partially) were emboldened by the outpouring of public alarm and public support for protecting voters’ privacy. The commission’s illegal attempts to collect private information about every voter generated massive pushback from citizens in Democratic and Republican states alike. Mississippi’s Republican Secretary of State, Delbert Hosemann, dismissed the commission’s request with a particularly memorable turn of phrase: “They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi is a great state to launch from… Mississippi residents should celebrate Independence Day and our state’s right to protect the privacy of our citizens by conducting our own electoral processes.”

Finally, we continually educated the public and decision makers about the commission and what they could do about it. We sent our “Flawed From The Start” report to our 1.1 million members and supporters. Webinars and social media livestreams brought together advocates, experts and public officials, keeping the issue in the spotlight.

So it’s crystal clear that public scrutiny and public resistance to a transparent attempt to suppress our right to vote is what stopped them. We won this battle. But we have much, much more to do. We must stay on our toes (the Trump administration has already said they intend to pass the issue over to Homeland Security). And the president has already tweeted the predetermined outcome of the commission: a plan for nationwide voter suppression laws like strict photo identification.

This victory is an important reminder of how citizen action can stop anti-democratic efforts by the Trump administration. Remember, when we organize, when we act together, we can win.  And we’ll win again with your support at the next fight.