Our Democracy Is at Grave Risk

In February of this year, Ari Berman reported that House Republicans voted "to eliminate the Election Assistance Commission, which helps states run elections and is the only federal agency charged with making sure voting machines can't be hacked."

Earlier this week, the Department of Justice "sent out a request for information on how states maintain their voter rolls." Um, okay.

On the same day, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the vice-chair of Donald Trump's "voter fraud" commission, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which is chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, sent a letter to the Secretaries of State of all 50 states, requesting "that all publicly available voter roll data be sent to the White House by July 14, five days before the panel's first meeting."

The requested information would not only include a voter's name, address, birthdate, and partial Social Security Number, but also the voter's political party, if registered, and "which elections the voter has participated in since 2006."

And the commission wants this information for every registered voter in the entire country.

In response to Kobach's letter, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe said in a statement that he has "no intention of honoring this request." California Secretary of State Alex Padilla flatly said in a statement that California will not comply: "California's participation would only serve to legitimize the false and already debunked claims of massive voter fraud made by the President, the Vice President, and Mr. Kobach."

Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin will not "turn over voter files to Trump election fraud panel." And even Alabama's Republican Secretary of State John Merrill has raised concerns about the request.
Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill also released a statement, saying that she would share publicly available data with the commission but complaining about a "lack of openness" about what the panel is looking for. Merrill cited past legal challenges to Kobach's efforts to clean up voter rolls in Kansas, which have led to some eligible voters being removed from registration lists.

"Given Secretary Kobach's history we find it very difficult to have confidence in the work of this commission," said Merrill, a Democrat and outgoing president of the National Association of Secretaries of State.

A spokeswoman for the association said the secretaries will almost certainly discuss Kobach's controversial request at their summer conference next week in Indianapolis.

The commission, which has yet to meet, has been viewed with suspicion from the start by civil rights groups, which think it will be used to justify measures — such as strict ID requirements — that will make it more difficult to vote.

Vanita Gupta headed the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department during the Obama administration. And she was not alone in raising flags about what the commission is getting up to.
A number of experts, as well as at least one state official, reacted with a mix of alarm and bafflement. Some saw political motivations behind the requests, while others said making such information public would create a national voter registration list, a move that could create new election problems.

"You'd think there would want to be a lot of thought behind security and access protocols for a national voter file, before you up and created one," said Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola University School of Law and former Department of Justice civil rights official. "This is asking to create a national voter file in two weeks."

David Becker, the executive director of the Center for Election Innovation & Research, also expressed serious concerns about the request. "It's probably a good idea not to make publicly available the name, address and military status of the people who are serving our armed forces to anyone who requests it," he said.

...There is no evidence to suggest that voting twice is a widespread problem, though experts say removing duplicate registrations are a good practice if done carefully.

"In theory, I don't think we have a problem with that as an idea, but the devil is always in the details," said Dale Ho, the director of the ACLU's Voting Rights Project. While he believes voter registration list maintenance is important, he says Kobach's Crosscheck program has been repeatedly shown to be ineffective and to produce false matches. A study by a group of political scientists at Stanford published earlier this year found that Crosscheck highlighted 200 false matches for every one true double vote.

"I have every reason to think that given the shoddy work that Mr. Kobach has done in this area in the past that this is going to be yet another boondoggle and a propaganda tool that tries to inflate the problem of double registration beyond what it actually is," Ho said.
And, one presumes, then subsequently used to justify voting requirements that disenfranchise voters who are most likely to be Democratic voters, which Republicans have already been doing in state legislatures for decades.

Because, of the two major parties, only Democrats believe that it should be easier to vote, not more difficult.

It's up to the states to hold the line against this massive federal attempt to erode voting rights. Make your calls. Let your state government know you're watching — and expect them to protect voters' information and rights.

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