Nel's New Day

July 20, 2017

Voter Suppression Goes National

A distraction from Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) yesterday was his threats to the DOJ top personnel and the special investigator in charge of tracking Russian collusion with DDT and his associates. Today’s shocker was the revelation that he’s checking into the possibility of using his “presidential pardon” for his staff, his family, and himself. A vital issue for democracy in the United states, however, is his new voting commission which met in public for the first time yesterday.

An obsession with big numbers led DDT to claim that the Hillary Clinton would not have bested him by almost three million votes if the nation didn’t have three to five million illegal votes cast in the election. In his fits of pique, he supports the Republicans who use voter suppression to win elections, state by state, through draconian laws and voter registration purging. Several days ago, the commission riled up secretaries of state across the country by demanding voter roles, including birth dates, addresses, Social Security numbers, and individual voting records.

Across the nation, those requested to send information have primarily said that they would provide the same information that they would to any request for public information. After one lawsuit, the commission must stop collecting voter information until a court makes a ruling. Another suit addressed privacy concerns, especially because the storage computer lacks security.

Amazed at the backlash to the commission, DDT had an official rollout with its chair, VP Mike Pence, and its mastermind and vice chair, Kris Kobach, presenting its goals in what has been called its first meeting. The real first meeting was done just among the members in private. Kobach is known for creating and disseminating the most unreasonable voter ID laws in the country as well as purging voter registration lists in Kansas where he is secretary of state. In the past, Kobach has been one of the strongest defenders of states’ rights.

One stated reason from the commission is to study voter fraud. It has been studied ad infinitum since states started passing laws to prevent minorities, women, and low-income people from casting votes. Women are easily disenfranchised if they have married because names on current identification don’t match the birth certificate. They are also a larger percentage of the elderly who sometimes have no birth certificates. One comprehensive study of every federal election between 2000 and 2014 found 31 credible instances of voter impersonation out of over one billion votes cast. Only four cases of voter fraud were identified in the 135 million votes cast last November.

Wisconsin was one of 14 states last year implementing new voting restrictions for the first time. Voter turnout fell in that state to a 20-year low, especially among poor and black residents. According to federal court records, 300,000 registered voters, 9 percent of the electorate, lacked strict forms of voter ID in Wisconsin.  An analysis of states with and without strict voter ID laws, the number of voters, primarily black and poor, was suppressed in all the states that passed restrictive laws.  This comparison showed that Wisconsin’s voter-ID law reduced turnout by 200,000 votes. Donald Trump won the state by only 22,748 votes. Voter suppression has been confirmed by other studies.

Like officials in 31 other states, Kobach uses Crosscheck to purge voters from registration lists and hopes to use the program with all 50 states. The program is known for huge numbers of false positives, but these people are disenfranchised. The ACLU has sued Kobach four times for voter suppression; he lost all four cases. With great investigative zeal, he found only nine cases of fraudulent voting out of 1.8 million votes. In describing registration and voting by noncitizens as “pervasive,” Kobach could find only one of these cases in Kansas. Requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote in Kansas has blocked one of seven Kansans since 2013.

Pro-commission people constantly use the term “voter fraud” for registrations for one person in multiple states and for deceased people.  Yet registering in multiple states is legal; it is the act of voting in more than one state that is a felony. Jared Kushner, DDT’s son-in-law and adviser with high-level security clearance, is registered in more than one state. The same is true for Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, senior adviser and white supremacist Steve Bannon, and Press Secretary Sean Spicer. And probably many of DDT’s officials. Gregg Phillips, creator of the app VoteStand to help people report potential voter fraud, is registered in Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas. DDT called Phillips a guru on voter fraud. One study shows 2.75 million people registered to vote in multiple states, usually because of recent moves. In just Clark County (NV), over 150,000 of the county’s 700,000 active registered voters within one year.

The commission claims to be “bipartisan,” but it is run by two seriously partisan Republicans and packed with strong supporters of the voter fraud myth. Another member is Ohio’s former secretary of state Ken Blackwell who ordered county clerks not to accept voter registration on anything less than paper the thickness of a postcard. He also accidentally distributed voter lists with full Social Security numbers for the state’s voters.

House Republicans seem unconcerned about voter fraud. They are attempting to defund the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, the only federal agency that exclusively works to make the voting process secure. The move comes after the EAC worked with the FBI to investigate Russian hacking. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also fired its cyberattack expert.

For over a decade, computer experts have issued warnings about the vulnerability of equipment used for voting, especially the direct-recording electronic (DRE) machines. At least five states lack any paper trail for votes, and another 24 use a mixture. Thus only 21 states in the nation have a system for verifying votes. After the Bush/Gore debacle in 2000 when punch cards were unreadable, the Help America Vote Act provided states with $3 billion in 2002 to purchase modern equipment. Most of the states used the money for DRE machines that provided to paper trail.  Russian hackers tried to access election computers in at least 21 states last year, and that may be a conservative estimate.

About states’ reaction to submitting personal information about voters, DDT delivered a line that should have brought laughs: “If any state does not want to share this information, one has to wonder what they’re worried about. And I asked the Vice President, I asked the commission: What are they worried about? There’s something. There always is.”

Yes, DDT, if you are hiding your tax returns, your visitor logs, your conversations with an adversarial country, your—it goes on and on—you must have something to hide.

Courts have determined that voter suppression laws, including but far beyond voter IDs, are “passed with racially discriminatory intent.” GOP legislators admit that the purpose of these laws is to reduce the number of Democrats at the polls. But DDT’s new commission claims that it is “fighting voter fraud” and “protecting election integrity.” The commission ignores the fact that ten percent of people eligible to vote lack the identification to satisfy these new GOP laws. DMVs necessary to obtain IDs and early-voting places close in non-white, non-rich, and non-GOP neighborhoods. Commission members claim that no one ever complains about their disenfranchisement. They do, but they have no effect on the process outside the courts.

Republicans need the new voting commission to stay in power. They will divert attention from the democracy of paper trails for computer voting, enfranchising all eligible voters, early voting, and simplified voter registration. Republicans hate mail-in voting popular in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington because voting is made easier. They hate the automatic voter registration because any eligible voter can easily access the process. They hate a paper trail because the votes can be recounted. The sole goal of most GOP legislators is to keep their party in power at any cost to democracy. The United States doesn’t suffer from voter fraud–it suffers from GOP fraud.

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