What you really, really need to know about Trump’s “voter fraud panel”

Foreign hostile governments are not the only threat to American elections these days: President Trump’s sham commission against voter fraud, led by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, will meet for the first time next week and state Democrats and voting rights advocates are already fighting back.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is leading Donald Trump’s “voter fraud panel”

The “Election Integrity” Commission — or as Trump calls it, “voter fraud panel” — should really be called a voter suppression commission.

The commission’s first act was to request voter information from all fifty states, including names, addresses, birthdates, political party, voting history, and even partial social security numbers. The vast majority of states have refused to provide this personal data, citing voter privacy concerns, and various groups — lawmakers, the ACLU and civil rights leaders among them — have filed lawsuits challenging the controversial request in Florida, New Hampshire, and Washington.

Trump has repeatedly claimed without evidence that the reason he lost the popular vote in 2016 is because millions voted illegally in the 2016 elections. This panel is nothing more than a pretext to justify his petty claims — and use them to purge legitimate voters from the rolls.

This isn’t the first time Republicans have attacked voting rights, over a problem that doesn’t exist.

Republicans have been raising the flag about “voter fraud” for years, despite a lack of evidence, and now Trump’s commission is preparing to nationalize state GOP’s restrictions on voting under the context of battling “voter fraud”. With incident rates of voter fraud between 0.0003% and 0.0025%, an American is more likely to be struck by lightning than commit voter fraud.

But that hasn’t stopped Republicans at every level of government from dreaming up “solutions” to this nonexistent problem. In state after state — Texas, Wisconsin, Idaho, Florida, Missouri, Virginia, the list goes on — Republican state legislatures are pushing and passing strict voter ID laws and bills that limit early voting in an effort to suppress Democratic votes. Many of these laws have been found to illegally restrict voting rights: courts have struck down laws in North Carolina, and Wisconsin’s law faced multiple court challenges.

Not only that, but the commission’s leadership has a history of voter suppression.

This isn’t the first rodeo for Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who was selected by Trump as vice chair of the commission. He helped push through a “proof of citizenship” law in his home state that denied 18,000 eligible Kansans the right to vote, and has advocated for a deeply flawed computer program to locate voters who might be registered in more than one state — a program that has mistakenly flagged and revoked hundreds of valid registrations. Now, he’s taking his agenda to the national stage.

These attacks are systemic and well-organized.

Since 2010, 20 states have implemented new restrictive voting laws. From 2011 to 2012 alone, lawmakers proposed 62 photo ID bills in 37 states. More than half were sponsored by legislators associated with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and many of these bills contained elements of the ALEC “model” voter ID language. At least 99 bills have been introduced this year alone that would restrict access to the polls, in 31 states. The reality is, this “election integrity commission” is simply a federalized attempt to do what Republicans have been working towards for years in the states: win elections by suppressing Democratic votes.

The commission is already having an impact — and it’s not good.

Colorado, one of the few states that agreed to send voter-roll information to Trump’s commission, has seen a marked increase in voters canceling their voter registration. And when we say marked, we mean it. A spokesperson for the Denver Elections Division said that they saw a whopping 2,150% increase in withdrawals in the few days after the announcement as compared to the days prior.

This is voter intimidation and suppression in action.

State Democrats are fighting back.

While Republicans pass restrictive laws, state Democrats are resisting the commission’s request. Colorado Rep. Leslie Herod called it out as “simply another form of voter suppression,” while Senate Democrats in the Florida legislature referred to the request as an “invasion of privacy and federal overreach.”

Not only that, but state Democrats are actively working to make it easier — not harder — to vote. In Oregon, Democrats in the legislature passed a bill which makes voter registration an entirely painless process: when eligible residents interact with the Oregon DMV such as getting a driver’s license, they are automatically registered to vote. Other states have followed suit and have seen an increase in voter participation. By making the registration and voting process quick and easy for all eligible voters, state Democrats are working to make our democracy more accessible — not less. DLCC stands with our lawmakers against the restriction of voting rights, and will work to expand Democratic strength in statehouse nationwide so that the integrity of our elections is protected.