News & Opinion
By Jen Herrick
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – When President Trump created the
“Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity”
last spring — and put notorious vote suppressor Kris
Kobach at the helm — voting rights advocates had decades
of good reasons to be concerned. The panel seemed destined to back
harsh restrictions on voting rights.
commission was recently disbanded. But while that provides a
momentary sigh of relief, it doesn’t mean that this
Trump-Kobach crusade — or voter suppression — has gone
For one, there’s still a lot we don’t know about what
information the commission collected and what the administration
intends to do with it now.
Early reports are troubling. For instance, we now know the
commission asked Texas to turn over a list of its voters with
Hispanic last names flagged. The threat of officials using
data to fuel large-scale voter roll purges looms large.
Kobach, who’s served as Kansas secretary of state since 2011
and is currently running for governor, says that he
remains at the center of ongoing administration efforts to
down on voting. (Trump claims “illegal votes” cost him
the popular vote in 2016, despite
the lack of any evidence.)
Disturbingly, both Kobach and Trump have said that the
of Homeland Security will now take up their cause.
While Homeland Security counters that its priority is election
infrastructure, not voter fraud, the agency also says that it’s
working with a handful of states to compare
voter data with citizenship data. In addition, the Department
Justice (whose leader, Jeff
Sessions, is a notorious voting rights foe) made a sweeping
voter data request around the same time that the commission
Even without a formal voting commission, the threat of
voters who’ve done nothing wrong having their rights restricted
is still very real. Twenty
states are considering bills this year that would restrict
ability to vote.
This includes Kobach’s home state of Kansas as well as New
Hampshire, where they’re trying — and not
for the first time — to make voting
harder for students and anyone else who moves a lot.
We’re also seeing attempts
across the country to enact voter ID laws, restrict early and
absentee voting, and to aggressively purge voters who skip just one
election cycle, a practice currently being challenged at the Supreme
Congress is complicit through its lack of action on voting
having gone nearly five years without mending the gaping hole the
Supreme Court ripped into the Voting
Rights Act. Since 1965, this crown jewel of the civil rights
movement has provided important tools to address voting
discrimination against racial minorities and others.
It’s still very
much needed. But thanks to the Supreme Court, the federal law
longer has the teeth to stop
bad state laws before they get started — when it makes the
most difference to voters.
As Trump and Kobach and their far-right allies continue to
dismantle democracy at the federal, state, and local levels, those
who champion voting rights have a big task ahead of them. But there
are signs of hope on the horizon.
Perhaps the brightest light shines in Florida, where voters
November will be asked through a ballot measure to give a second
chance to fellow Floridians who’ve done their time and paid
their debt to society — but who currently can’t vote
because of a past felony conviction. If successful, this measure
would restore the ability to vote to 1.5 million Floridians.
Trump lost his commission, but he isn’t giving up on voter
suppression. And that means we can’t give up on fighting for a
democracy where everyone can cast a vote that counts.
Jen Herrick is the senior policy analyst at People
American Way. This report was first published Distributed
by OtherWords.org and is reprinted here with