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.

June 30, 2017

Federal Commission Wants All the Voting Registration Data

Filed under: Voting — trp2011 @ 10:25 PM
Tags: , , ,

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has been furious since his election last November that he missed getting the majority of popular votes by at least three million. He spent the first few months claiming voter fraud by undocumented immigrants, but white supremacist may have given him a solution for punishing people who disagreed with him. On May 11, DDT signed one of his executive orders, examining both voter fraud and suppression. Toward that end, he appointed Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to be vice-chair of DDT’s commission who stated that the commission’s sole objective is to support DDT’s lie that voter fraud was involved in the 2016 election.

DDT has claimed that the commission would be bipartisan, but among Democrats are a West Virginia county clerk and a former Arkansas state legislator who doesn’t know why he was chosen. Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap and New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner hope to look into Russia’s interference in the election, but that was not part of the commission’s charge.  Nor is the growing number of voter suppression laws across the nation since the Supreme Court gutting of the 1965 Voting Rights Act in 2013.

Kobach has an illustrious history in voter suppression throughout the nation.In 2010, the Kansan started providing states with bills to prevent a nonproblem when he  provided Arizona with its language for demanding citizenship papers, citizenship proof to register to vote, and strict photo ID requirements for voting. The Arizona “show your papers”  law failed in the Supreme Court, but Arizona can still require citizenship proof for state elections. People have to register twice—once for federal candidates and the other for state/local elections.

In 2011, Kobach introduced the Kansas law requiring residents to give proof of citizenship to be registered as a voter. Lawsuits against the law are still in court because the federal National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) requires only “the minimum amount of information necessary” to verify citizenship. Last April the court demanded documents to prove Kobach’s claims that enough citizens are registering to force higher standards from NVRA.  The ACLU claims that these show that he lobbied DDT to change the law, indicating that he knew his process was inconsistent with current federal law. Last week, a federal judge fined him $1,000 for making “patently misleading representations” about these documents.

In 2015, Kobach, he created a system suspending tens of thousands of eligible voters from the rolls but claimed that “nobody’s being disenfranchised.” He is the only secretary of state in the country with the power to prosecute people for committing voter fraud. Kobach’s office also compared voter rolls to temporary driver’s licenses for non-citizens and commissioned outside firms to poll non-citizens about voting habits using these driver’s licenses. He also asked the Department of Homeland Security to compare a list of suspected non-citizen voters against a list of naturalized citizens.

In Kansas, Kobach used a database called Crosscheck to look for voters registered in two states and plans a similar process with the data that he collects from the 50 states. It supposedly matches voters’ names and dates of birth to flag people who are double registered. Unfortunately experts have found that it finds 200 false positives for every one legitimate result. Kobach could find almost 1 million false positives. Other states have dropped the program because it flagged one in six Latinos, one in seven Asian Americans, and one in nine African Americans as potential double registrants in the states examined.

This week, Kobach sent letters to all 50 secretaries of state requiring “publicly-available voter roll data” including ten types of sensitive information within two weeks. One of these is the last four digits of the registrants’ Social Security number. There was no indication of how Kobach or the commission chair, Vice President Mike Pence, plans to use the information—or keep it secure. Kobach may be on the way to setting up a national system like the one he developed in Kansas.

The majority response to Kobach’s letter was “no.” He can’t even get Social Security numbers from Kansas because state law prevents it. Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson, a commission member, said that she would provide only voters’ names and their congressional district assignments. California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said in a statement that he will “not provide sensitive voter information to a commission that has already inaccurately passed judgment that millions of Californians voted illegally.” Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill said that she would be “withholding protected data.” She added:

“In the same spirit of transparency, we will request that the commission share any memos, meeting minutes or additional information as state officials have not been told precisely what the commission is looking for. This lack of openness is all the more concerning, considering that the vice chair of the commission, Kris Kobach, has a lengthy record of illegally disenfranchising eligible voters in Kansas.”

Mississippi’s Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann hadn’t gotten the letter when he formulated his response:

“As all of you may remember, I fought in federal court to protect Mississippi voters’ rights for their privacy and won. In the event I were to receive correspondence from the commission requesting (what the other state received) … My reply would be: They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi is a great state to launch from.”

In Missouri, however, the secretary of state said that he will cooperate. Jay Ashcroft is the son of former U.S. AG John Ashcroft, Kobach’s mentor at the Justice Department.

In some states, the secretaries of state are not responsible for voter information. For example, the two largest counties in Arizona, not the state, maintain their information.

The letter had also suggested that the data be sent to an insecure email address unprotected by even basic encryption technology, a faulty method for the goal of improving the security and integrity of federal election systems. The federal Privacy Act of 1974 prohibits the federal government from keeping records of voters’ party affiliation except in rare circumstances. The law was enacted after Watergate and concerns about Richard Nixon collecting personal information on U.S. voters. Still, Kobach hopes that the Justice Department will get the information for him if states would send him the data.

In the original letter, Kobach wrote that “any documents that are submitted to the full Commission will also be made available to the public.” Later he reversed his position and said that it would be stored on a secure server. Voter data is useful for identity theft. Almost 200 million records for U.S. voters compiled for DDT’s 2016 campaign was available for 12 days until a techie pointed out the problem.  The Center for Democracy and Technology compared the data availability to a leak of toxic waste. Releasing the data to Kobach would mean having faith in him to keep the material secure.

The accusation of widespread voter fraud is fraudulent; the GOP uses it to eliminate votes from women, minorities, and the poor. The type that voter suppression laws intend to control is tremendously rare; they are only a burden to a largely non-existent problem. An examination of DDT’s claims about undocumented immigrants voting in mass during the 2016 presidential election has proved false. A federal judge ruled that some of Kobach’s proposed ID requirements constituted a “mass denial of a fundamental constitutional right.”

Candidates around the United States are already beginning to incorporate opposition against Kobach’s plan. Kobach is a candidate for Kansas governor in 2018. A question in Kansas is whether Republicans value their privacy.

Imagine if the Democrats tried to collect all the voter data!

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