There's a full-fledged assault being waged on voting rights in the United States, and Donald Trump just announced he's ramping it up—with the help of notorious White Nationalist vote suppressor, Kris Kobach.
Trump has announced the formation of a fake "commission on election integrity," to be led by Mike Pence along with the proud anti-voting rights activist Kris Kobach.1 But let's call it what it is: a voter purge commission. We already know what its recommendations will be: to make it harder for people to vote, when we should be making it easier. To cover up this blatant assault on our voting rights, the administration is trying to get other officials to join the Commission and give them cover.
Here's a short primer on Kris Kobach, who's been the proud poster child of and advocate for voter suppression efforts:
- As Kansas Secretary of State, his voter ID law, requiring having a birth certificate or passport on hand to register, blocked one in seven Kansans who tried to register to vote—among, many, many, many other voter suppression efforts.2
- He has a long and disgraceful record of openly working with hate groups.3
- He worked on the Bush-era NSEERS Muslim registry program, and was advising the Trump administration on renewing it.4
- He was the architect behind Arizona's racist SB 1070 "show me your papers" law.5
Kris Kobach's appointment is a crisis moment: voter suppression already was arguably worse in the 2016 election than any other since the days of Jim Crow. According to recent research, 200,000 people were kept from casting a ballot in Wisconsin—a state that Trump won by under 25,000 votes.6 Some researchers believe that Trump's wins in swing states like Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio were all thanks to voter suppression.7
Unfortunately, some officials are helping Trump and Kobach double down on limiting voting rights—including the Democratic Secretaries of State of Maine and New Hampshire. Maine's Secretary of State even had the nerve to say he was probably asked just so he could add "some gravitas."8
This voter purge commission is just the latest in Kris Kobach's history of coming up with new ways of preventing people—especially people of color—from voting. He's also the pioneer of the interstate Crosscheck system, which in some states led to thousands being purged from the voter rolls simply because another person with the same first and last name voted in a different state.
One expert summed up the absurd methodology as such: "God forbid your name is Garcia, of which there are 858,000 in the U.S., and your first name is Joseph or Jose. You're probably suspected of voting in 27 states." And the racism built into the system served its purpose: one in six Hispanics, one in seven Asian-Americans and one in nine African-Americans in Crosscheck states landed on the list to potentially be blocked from voting.9
There's little doubt that Kobach will bring these racist methods to his new voter purge commission, which is already filled with extreme far-right figures. But if he can get other officials to join, he can spin it as "bi-partisan."
1. "Trump Appoints Hate Group Figures to Voter Fraud Commission" Southern Poverty Law Center, May 16, 2017
2. "Kris Kobach, the ‘King of Voter Suppression,’ Will Lead Trump’s Sham Voter Fraud Commission. Be Afraid, Very Afraid." ACLU, May 12 2017
3. "Kris Kobach: Lawyer for America's Nativist Movement" Southern Poverty Law Center, Nov 18, 2016
4. "Trump Team Is Mulling Muslim Registry And Planning Border Wall, Reported Adviser Says," The Huffington Post, Nov 16, 2016
5. "Kris Kobach: Lawyer for America's Nativist Movement" Southern Poverty Law Center, Nov 18, 2016
6. "Wisconsin’s Voter-ID Law Suppressed 200,000 Votes in 2016 (Trump Won by 22,748)" The Nation, May 9, 2017
7. "States that passed voting restrictions saw decreased turnout, flipped to Trump" NY Daily News, Nov 9, 2016
8. "Maine’s secretary of state invited to join Trump commission on voter fraud" The Press Herald, May 11 2017
9. "The GOP's Stealth War Against Voters" Rolling Stone, Aug 24, 2016