In the chaos of the past week, you may have missed a troubling news story out of the Trump White House -- the creation of a “Presidential Commission on Election Integrity.”
Maybe you’re thinking, great, we’re finally going to get to the bottom of how Russia interfered in our election!
Just kidding, Trump doesn’t care about any of that.
“To state the obvious, this isn’t a commission. It’s a self-driving vehicle preprogrammed to arrive at only one destination: that strange, fact-free land in which, according to Mr. Trump and many conservatives, hordes of foreigners and people without valid photo identification flood the polls, threatening the nation’s electoral integrity.”
Trump’s commission will be focused on spinning falsehood after falsehood to justify Trump’s “Pants on Fire” claim that “millions of people… voted illegally” in the 2016 election.
Newsflash -- there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud. Taxpayer resources might be better spent trying to prevent Americans being struck by lightning than trying to investigate voter fraud. That’s because more Americans are injured or killed in lightning strikes every year than there are instances of in-person voter fraud.
So what’s the real agenda here?
- Stroking Trump’s ego
- Justifying a new wave of Republican attacks on voting rights
Here in Ohio, we’ve seen this movie before.
Secretary of State Jon Husted has consistently hyped the specter of voter fraud, in the attempt to defend policies that make it harder for Ohioans to vote. Former Secretary of State Ken Blackwell was another Ohio Republican who took great pride in making it harder for Ohioans to vote. The Columbus Dispatch recalled Blackwell’s tenure like this:
“Blackwell, part of Trump’s transition team, might be best remembered for attempting to throw out any Ohio voter registrations in the 2004 presidential election year not printed on ‘white, uncoated paper of not less than 80-pound text weight,’ a heavy, cardlike stock. That election generated controversies over topics ranging from voting devices to long lines on Election Day.”
So guess who Trump named to his commission? None other than Ken Blackwell.
We can expect one of the commission’s major recommendations will be to implement strict voter ID laws across the country. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is vice chairman of the commission, and he “has championed the strictest voter identification laws in the country.”
As Republicans have been pushing for strict voter ID laws in state after state, Democrats and civil rights groups have fought them at every turn. And this week voting rights activists got a big win, when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to reinstate a North Carolina law that a lower court found targeted African-American voters “with almost surgical precision.” Republicans know exactly what they’re doing when they enact these sorts of laws. Here in the Buckeye State, an Ohio Republican official explained new restrictions on early voting like this:
“I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter turnout machine.”
The GOP knows what they’re doing -- and more importantly, they know why. A new study released last week found that Wisconsin’s voter ID law reduced turnout by about 200,000 votes.
Donald Trump won Wisconsin by fewer than 23,000 votes.
Folks, the 2020 election could be decided before even a single ballot is cast. If we allow Republicans to continue to hype miniscule instances of voter fraud and then ram discriminatory voting restrictions through statehouse after statehouse, we will have lost the 2020 election before it’s even begun.
We can fight back, but the fight must begin now.
In 2018, Ohioans will go to the polls to elect their next Secretary of State. Given Ohio’s perennial status as a battleground state, the race for our top elections official will be one of the most important in the nation. We need to elect someone who will fight to protect the right to vote for all Ohioans.
Rep. Kathleen Clyde has fought to restore Ohioans who were illegally purged from the voting rolls. She also fought to ensure young voters could cast a ballot in Ohio's presidential primary in 2016. At the Ohio Statehouse, she is an advocate for automatic voter registration, which would add 1 million Ohioans to the rolls.
While the Ohio Democratic Party has not endorsed in any of the statewide races, we welcome Kathleen Clyde to the field of candidates running in 2018 and look forward to hearing more from this hard-working public servant.
Those who care about voting rights across the country must seize the opportunity by winning secretary of state races in 2018.