It is evident that the Trump administration is about to embark on a nationwide voter suppression campaign to disenfranchise thousands or even millions of voters. This campaign will be based on lies and myths about voter fraud, and it will be carried out under the name of “election integrity.” It is beginning with a mind-boggling demand for Secretaries of State to turn over detailed profiles of all registered voters in every state. It is essential that Colorado, a state that prides itself on voter participation and access, not be complicit in federal efforts to suppress the vote.
In order to soothe his ego after losing the popular vote in the 2016 election, President Trump made completely false and imaginary claims that he would have won the popular vote if not for millions of illegal voters. In reality, voter fraud (defined as an ineligible person voting, someone voting in the name of another person, or someone voting multiple times in an election) is extremely rare. Very few people are willing to commit a felony for the sake of one vote, and very few do. (And it is worth noting that most of the very few known cases in 2016 were Trump voters.)
What is not rare is voter suppression, through voter roll purges, misinformation, felon disenfranchisement, voter ID laws that block many citizens from voting, a wide variety of other obstacles to registration and voting, and gerrymandering to manipulate outcomes and make the votes of many citizens less meaningful. Voter suppression can affect hundreds of thousands of votes at a time, and can alter the outcome of elections, which isolated voter fraud never does. Yet stopping voter fraud is often the excuse that is used for massive voter suppression.
This newest attack on our democracy is being deceptively framed as an effort for “election integrity.” Mike Pence and Kris Kobach (one of the worst voter suppression perpetrators in the nation) have demanded that Secretaries of State in every state turn over extensive personal information about every registered voter by July 14 to a centralized “Presidential Commission on Election Integrity” under their control. They want names, addresses, birthdates, the last four digits of Social Security numbers, voting histories, military status, felony information, and much more. Who knows how this enormous database could be abused by this administration? Undoubtedly they will use any inconsistencies they find to justify huge selective voter purges and policies that will block many legitimate voters from voting. Relatively common errors or duplications in registration records will be falsely claimed to be evidence of widespread voter fraud. Don’t be fooled—registration is not the same as voting, and actual voter fraud is almost nonexistent.
Several Secretaries of State, including in Kentucky, California, Rhode Island and Virginia, have already stated that they will not participate in this data-gathering scheme. In Colorado, Secretary of State Wayne Williams has indicated that he will provide any data that is publicly accessible. Williams should refuse to cooperate in every way possible, providing nothing that is not required by law, objecting to the purpose of this request, and making it no easier than necessary for Pence and Kobach to assemble their database. Anything less would be complicit in voter suppression. Williams should protect Colorado voters and elections, not expose Colorado to a politicized national scheme to depress voting.
Meanwhile, the U.S. House of Representatives has sought to strip funding from the Election Assistance Commission, a small federal agency charged with helping states improve and protect their voting systems. At a time of known efforts by hostile foreign powers to hack American elections, this proof of disregard for real election integrity is staggering.
Be ready for an onslaught of voter suppression tactics justified by baseless claims of rampant voter fraud. It is the responsibility of every American to fight vigorously against voter suppression schemes that disenfranchise millions of voters and distort our elections. Nothing less than our democracy is at stake.