On Wednesday, a federal court in Ohio ruled that Secretary of State Jon Husted could not rely on half measures that do little to right the proven wrongs of the state’s massive—and illegal—purge of voters. The court instructed the state to instead protect voters’ rights and let them know what they might encounter this Election Day.
Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, director of the African American Ministers Leadership Council at People For the American Way Foundation, released the following statement:
“This is a victory not only for Ohio voters but also for our democratic system. Illegally purging voters from the rolls undermines the most fundamental right we have as Americans. And the fact that African Americans and low-income people were disproportionately purged makes it all the more outrageous.
“Our elected leaders should be looking for ways to engage more people in the democratic process, not trying to block people from casting a ballot. We applaud the court’s decision protecting the rights of these voters who were wrongfully targeted.”
In response to Donald Trump’s false allegations that there will have been “large scale” voter fraud “if he doesn’t win,” Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, People For the American Way (PFAW) Director of African American Ministers In Action, released the following statement:
“Donald Trump’s dangerous, wildly inaccurate assertions that this election will be rigged serves to undermine American democracy. We know that voter fraud is almost nonexistent in American democracy, as study after study has shown.
“For decades, Republicans have pushed false claims of voter fraud in order to enact laws that courts have found—and some Republicans have openly admitted—are explicitly designed to infringe upon the voting rights of African Americans and people of color. Now, Donald Trump has taken this idea to the extreme, going so far as to encourage his supporters to engage in voter intimidation by showing up to polling sites in cities with large populations of people of color. How shameful it is that some of his supporters have taken the bait, saying they’ll use ‘racial profiling’ to make some voters ‘a little bit nervous.’
“Our communities have a long history of fighting for the right to vote. That history is the reason why voter suppression laws and hypocritical tactics to disenfranchise voters is not discouraging but actually encouraging, in that it inspires us even more to make our voices heard through voting. The fight continues today until the rights for all are protected against those who would gain through deceit. We will show up in record numbers on Election Day, move beyond obstacles that stand in the way, and step into voting booths for those of the past, present and the future and vote because it is our constitutional right as citizens of an America that’s already great.”
To schedule an interview with Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
People For the American Way is a progressive advocacy organization founded to fight right-wing extremism and defend constitutional values including free expression, religious liberty, equal justice under the law, and the right to meaningfully participate in our democracy.
Given the severity of Hurricane Matthew, including the ordered evacuations of 1.5 million people, People For the American Way Foundation is calling on Florida Governor Rick Scott to reconsider his stance against extending the voter registration deadline for Floridians. People For the American Way Foundation Director of Outreach and Public Engagement Diallo Brooks issued the following statement:
“Our thoughts are with those impacted by Hurricane Matthew. As Floridians are rightly focused entirely on emergency preparedness and response, we call on Florida Governor Rick Scott to move the voter registration deadline. Scott should stop playing dangerous, partisan games with the storm that is currently battering Florida and extend the state’s voter registration deadline as his counterpart in South Carolina did.
“Voting is the most significant way most Americans participate in our democracy. For centuries, Americans have fought for the right to vote, and we continue to fight hard for that right today.
“There should be no need for a fight here: In the face of what could be one of the worst hurricanes in Florida’s history, there’s simply no justification for denying a person the right to vote through refusing to move the voter registration deadline, which would ensure that all who would like to exercise their right to vote can have the opportunity to register to vote.”
People For the American Way Foundation is a progressive advocacy organization founded to fight right-wing extremism and defend constitutional values including free expression, religious liberty, equal justice under the law, and the right to meaningfully participate in our democracy.
Catherine Engelbrecht, the founder of the “voter integrity” group True the Vote, told “Breitbart News Daily” this morning that the Obama administration is likely intentionally signing up noncitizens to vote.
Engelbrecht told Breitbart’s Alex Marlow that “there’s potential” for noncitizens voting “to be a very big threat” in the election. She cited the “motor voter” law that allows people to register to vote when obtaining government services if they affirm their citizenship under oath.
Engelbrecht claimed that the “citizenship metatag gets scrubbed out very quickly” as these documents make their way through government agencies, so “it is absolutely a real thing to worry about noncitizens voting.”
“And it’s hard to look at the situation any other way except to believe that it’s been done intentionally by this administration,” she concluded.
Last week, True the Vote was behind a false report that the man who shot five people in a Washington state mall had voted illegally as a noncitizen.
The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins interviewed Rep. Louie Gohmert yesterday about reports, which turned out to be erroneous, that the man who shot five people in a Washington state mall last weekend had voted three times despite not being a citizen. Gohmert was positively jubilant about the false report, saying that it was “the perfect evidence” to contradict “liberal judges” who say that there is no widespread voting by noncitizens.
Gohmert, a Texas Republican, then linked the story to efforts to pass criminal justice reform legislation, claiming that Democrats are relying on the votes of “felons,” “people that can't speak English”—who he claimed are unable to follow the news—and undocumented immigrants in order to win elections.
“But, you know, what does it say about your party if you want felons to vote and you want people who don’t speak English to vote and you want people that are here illegally to vote?” he asked. “If your platform will only get voted into office by those people—felons, people that can’t speak English and haven’t been able to follow personally what’s actually going on in politics without getting an interpretation, and those who are illegally here, show no regard for the law—I would think you’d need to think about changing your platform.”
The congressman added that the Washington shooter “seems to be a big fan of Hillary Clinton,” which shows who “the Democrat drones” are.
Perkins responded that the Obama administration is “trying to basically flood the zone” with “Syrian refugees and others” in order to help Democrats.
“Exactly,” Gohmert replied. “And they know which party will be most helpful to them who have no regard for the law.”
People who have served time for felonies are in fact allowed to vote in many states, thanks to bipartisan efforts to restore their voting rights. While most naturalized citizens are required to pass an English test, in many cases election materials are translated for those with less English proficiency. However, Democrats are not allowing undocumented immigrants to vote without obtaining citizenship, as Gohmert asserts.
True the Vote, the Texas-based Tea Party group that is on a mission to uncover widespread voter fraud in order to promote suppressive voting measures, thought it had a winning story earlier this week when it announced that it had discovered that Arcan Cetin, the man accused of shooting five people at a mall in Washington state last weekend, had illegally voted as a noncitizen in three elections.
The story was quickly picked up by conservative media hoping to fan the flames of the story that noncitizens—and even murderous noncitizens—are out in great numbers stealing our elections.
The only problem was that Cetin is in fact a naturalized U.S. citizen and therefore was legally eligible to vote.
Seattle’s King 5 yesterday updated a story in which it had questioned Cetin’s citizenship, confirming that he was indeed a citizen when he voted:
UPDATE: KING 5 learned Thursday that Arcan Cetin, the 20-year-old who killed five people at Cascade Mall on Sept. 23, is in fact a U.S. citizen.
For days after the shooting, Cetin was described by local and federal law enforcement as being a permanent U.S. resident. He immigrated to the U.S. from Turkey when he was a child, after his mother married an American citizen.
On Thursday, a federal official told KING that further investigation revealed that Cetin is a naturalized U.S. citizen. That means he was legally registered to vote.
KING's initial story on Sept. 28 questioned state officials about how Cetin could register and vote without being a citizen.
According to news reports, Donald Trump is set to release today more names of individuals whom he would consider nominating to the Supreme Court if elected, a key part of his strategy to win over the Religious Right and the conservative establishment.
The new list includes Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, who, as Peter noted earlier this year, is not only a staunch social conservative but also believes that large parts of the federal social safety net are unconstitutional:
Lee dismisses Supreme Court rulings upholding a women’s right to abortion . He called the court’s marriage equality ruling a “breathtaking presumption of power.” People For the American Way noted in a 2010 report that Lee “has denounced as ‘domestic enemies’ those who disagree with his radically limited view” of the Constitution.
Here are a few things that Sen. Mike Lee believes are unconstitutional for the federal government to be engaged in:
Lee also has some ideas about how he’d like to change the Constitution. We wrote when Lee was running for Senate in the Tea Party wave of 2010:
He wants to eliminate capital gains taxes and make the current tax system more regressive – more reliant on lower income taxpayers – and says his favorite approach to taxation would actually be to repeal the 16th amendment altogether, strip the federal government of the power to tax income, and leave it to the states to determine how they would tax their own citizens to pay for the limited federal government that would be left.
He’s a constitutional lawyer who’d like to make lots of changes to the Constitution: he has said he supports repeal of the 17th Amendment, which calls for popular election of U S Senators; he wants to "clarify" the 14th Amendment through legislation to deny citizenship to children born in the U.S. to parents who are not citizens or legal residents; he wants to amend the Constitution to require a balanced federal budget and to impose congressional term limits.
Other names on Trump’s expanded list are also sure to please those who are hoping to radically reshape American law.
The Trump campaign’s statement boasts that one potential pick, Michigan Chief Justice Robert Young, is part of a court majority that has “embraced originalism and led what one scholar described as a ‘textualism revolution.’” The article in question notes that much of the Michigan majority’s philosophy draws on the arguments of the late Justice Antonin Scalia (while differing with Scalia in some ways).
In 2007, Young wrote a majority opinion upholding Michigan’s voter ID law, writing that it was a “reasonable, nondiscriminatory restriction designed to preserve the purity of elections and to prevent abuses of the electoral franchise."
The new list also includes Charles Canady, a Florida Supreme Court justice who served four terms as a Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1990s. In the House, Canady was the first to introduce the so-called ban on “partial-birth” abortion, a term that had been newly coined by anti-choice activists to stir up opposition to a specific abortion procedure and prompt a legal challenge to undermine Roe v. Wade.
Also on Trump’s list is Timothy Tymkovich, the chief judge of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, who wrote that court’s opinion in favor of Hobby Lobby’s attempt to cite religious objections to deny its employees health insurance coverage for contraception. That case later made it to the Supreme Court, resulting in a dramatic reinterpretation of the idea of religious liberty in America.
Trump’s new Supreme Court list is, like his original list released in May, clearly aimed at pacifying social conservatives who want assurance that his federal judges will uphold their policy priorities and by conservative legal groups intent on remaking American law.
True the Vote, a Tea Party group that’s working to organize poll-watchers to prevent a “flood of illegal voters” from stealing the 2016 election, organized a conference call last week to explain how a consent decree that the Republican National Committee signed in the 1980s “makes True the Vote the only hope for election integrity this year.”
True the Vote president Catherine Engelbrecht invited a man named Greg Phillips, who she said runs a cyber-security firm, to discuss potential threats to election security, including the recent reported hacks of elections systems in two states. Phillips dismissed the threat of cyberattacks against state elections systems, speculating that the Obama administration may have orchestrated the reported hack in order to justify taking control of elections in the states.
“What the left always does,” he said, “is they create a problem and then they solve their own problem by letting the federal government take it over … All of us in this industry know that the DOJ control of elections is what many of these presidents have wanted and certainly what the DOJ has wanted, but this lawless DOJ, whether it was under the previous attorney general or under the current attorney general, they seek to control all elections. And so they believe, I think, if they go out and they create a problem—they likely, it’s possible they even hired these hackers. They have scores of white-hat hackers that go around doing this kind of thing.”
Their goal in doing such a thing, he said, would have been “to raise enough fear” to justify a federal takeover of elections.
Engelbrecht responded that “there may in fact be a real threat [of] cyberattacks out there or we are citizens in a country whose government is trying to engineer an outcome that would spark fear enough to put elections into the hands of the federal government. It’s all pretty sinister.”
Missouri’s state constitution, unlike the U.S. Constitution, explicitly protects an individual’s right to vote.
But a group of prominent Republican donors, Christian conservative activists and friends of John Ashcroft, a former Missouri senator and governor who served as U.S. attorney general during the George W. Bush administration, have come together in an attempt to elect Ashcroft’s son Jay secretary of state of Missouri, with the hope that he will roll back that constitutional right and push through a strict voter ID law.
Jay Ashcroft has made voter ID a centerpiece of both his primary and general election campaigns. Last year, he took advantage of a Missouri law that allows citizens to propose ballot initiatives to file a proposed constitutional amendment that would roll back the state’s constitutional right to vote and allow the state to enforce a voter ID law. Ashcroft’s amendment will be on the ballot in November.
Ashcroft’s arguments center around the usual conservative voter-fraud boogeyman. “We’re talking about potential fraud that changes statewide elections,” he has argued.
Ari Berman of The Nation reported this year that “5 percent of the electorate [in Missouri]—220,000 registered voters—lack a government-issued photo ID, according to the secretary of state’s office, and [voter ID] would cost the state nearly $17 million to implement in the first three years.”
The current secretary of state, Democrat Jason Kander, is running for U.S. Senate, hoping to unseat Roy Blunt. Of the eight secretary of state races in the country this cycle, six are for offices that are currently held by Democrats.
Behind Ashcroft’s campaign to roll back the right to vote in Missouri is a confluence of big-money donors, Religious Right activists and friends of the candidate’s father. According to campaign finance reports, nearly half of the $824,788 donated to Ashcroft’s campaign has come from just four individuals, three of whom are related to each other.
David Humphreys has contributed $200,000 to Ashcroft’s campaign, while his mother Ethelmae and his sister Sarah Humphreys Atkins each donated $50,000. The Humphreys family are the owners of TAMKO, a manufacturer of building products. According to the Kansas City Star, the family has “poured $2.75 million into a political action committee that for months has been targeting Republicans who oppose a ‘right to work’ law.” David Humphreys also contributed $1,000,000 to a super PAC supporting Marco Rubio’s failed presidential campaign.
The last 990 tax form filed by the Humphreys’ family foundation shows that in 2014 the foundation contributed to a variety of organizations connected to the conservative Koch brothers, including a $500,000 contribution to Americans for Prosperity and smaller contributions to the Heartland Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Mercatus Center.
Another $100,000 donated to Jay Ashcroft’s campaign came directly from the corporate treasury of the CNS Corporation, a Missouri-based holding company owned by pastor and businessman Charles Sharpe. Sharpe Holdings is one of the numerous companies that filed suit against the Obama administration’s contraceptive insurance mandate, an issue that ended up being heard by the Supreme Court as part of the Hobby Lobby case.
Sharpe is also the founder a school called the Heartland Christian Academy that has come under scrutiny for its sometimes extreme use of corporal punishment.
Beyond these four individuals, Ashcroft has received contributions from influential members of the Christian Right, including $5,000 from Pat Robertson, chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network. John Ashcroft is a professor at Robertson’s Regent University.
Other major funders include other friends of John Ashcroft, including his business partner David Ayers, Bush administration colleague Donald Rumsfeld, former Assistant Attorney General Viet Dinh, and the chair of Scooter Libby’s legal defense trust, Mel Sembler.
This group has joined together to fund a campaign that at its core is about rolling back the right to vote and the protection of that right in Missouri’s constitution.
The American Family Association’s Sandy Rios wondered this morning if the Department of Homeland Security’s announcement that it may designate electronic voting systems as “critical infrastructure” in order to guard against cyberattacks is in fact the “creepy laying of groundwork” for an Obama administration plot to blame Russian hackers for a Trump victory in November in order to overturn the results.
Rios, the AFA’s governmental affairs director and an American Family Radio host, asked the Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky about the news on her radio program this morning.
“So this really is, honestly, it just seems like, oh boy, the creepy laying of groundwork for something that could be really bad,” she said. “Like, okay, I’m going to step off the plank here. Let’s say maybe the election ends up being really, really close and because they’ve already laid the groundwork that Donald Trump is connected with Putin, they’re best buddies according to—well, he claimed that he had a relationship with him and then they claimed, the left claims that he has a really good relationship with him and now they’re inferring that the Russians may mess with the election.
“So, gee, if it’s close, maybe it’s probably the Russians, then, that are messing with our election apparatus and so then the Justice Department and the executive branch come in to kind of fix it. Right, Hans, something like that?”
Von Spakovsky responded that while he “wouldn’t quite go so far as them blaming it on the Russians,” the Obama administration could use the DHS’s move to place “virulent left-wing partisans” from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division in polling places to falsely claim that there is voter suppression taking place in swing states.
“So they would be in the polling places,” he said, “and they would be the ones coming out, maybe in a state that’s close, saying, ‘Oh, we saw all kinds of voter suppression efforts going on in that precinct, in that area, and therefore that throws in doubt the results of the election’ if their favored candidate loses.”
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is a right-wing activist who has championed anti-immigrant and voter suppression efforts around the country and has helped to insert right-wing rhetoric into recent Republican platforms. As Miranda reported this month, Kobach is pushing his fellow Republicans to adopt legislation modeled after the disastrously restrictive voting law he helped push through in Kansas. The September 8 issue of Rolling Stone looks at one of Kobach’s ventures in “The GOP’s Stealth War Against Voters.”
The Rolling Stone story by journalist and author Greg Palast examines Crosscheck, a Kobach project that Palast calls “the culmination of a decade-long Republican effort to disenfranchise voters under the guise of battling voter fraud.” The Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program is ostensibly designed to target a virtually nonexistent form of voter fraud. In reality, it helps promote the Right Wing's bogus voter fraud narrative, which in turn provides justification for otherwise unjustifiable laws that restrict voting. In the worst case scenario, Crosscheck could lead to thousands of people, predominantly people of color and young voters, being wrongly purged from voting rolls in advance of November’s election.
Crosscheck compares voter registration lists in different states to identify individuals who are registered in more than one place. Theoretically, it requires matches on a voter's first, middle and last name, along with birth date and the final four digits of a social security number, but in reality, it doesn’t always work as advertised. As we noted a couple years ago, Crosscheck’s data was so unreliable that Florida and Oregon dropped out of the program.
Palast says he was able to get his hands on Crosscheck lists from Virginia, Georgia and Washington state, and found that the lists often lacked a middle-name match and misidentified fathers and sons as the same voter. He cites database expert Mark Swedlund, who criticizes Crosscheck’s “childish methodology.” He also notes that U.S. Census data indicates that people of color are statistically more likely to have last names in common, leading to an “astonishing” inherent bias in the results, with “one in six Hispanics, one in seven Asian-Americans, and one in nine African Americans in Crosscheck states landing on the list.” And Donald Trump complains the election is rigged against him!
“God forbid your name is Garcia, of which there are 858,000 in the U.S., and your first name if Joseph or Jose,” says Swedlund. “You’re probably suspected of voting in 27 states.”
It is up to each state to decide how it uses the data from Crosscheck; some send the lists to county officials who don’t have the resources to verify their accuracy. Rolling Stone reports that Crosscheck “has flagged close to half a million voters” in Ohio, and that 41,000 people were knocked off voting rolls in Virginia when it was under Republican control.
Even if state and local officials don’t end up using the data to initiate major purges, Crosscheck’s inflated numbers can be used to buttress false right-wing claims that voter fraud is a big problem. That mythology has been particularly damaging in the aftermath of rulings from conservative justices on the Supreme Court dismantling key Voting Rights Act protections, which allowed Republican officials in many states to pass laws aimed at making it harder for some people, particularly people of color and young people, to register and vote. And, says Palast, gutting the Voting Rights Act also meant dropping the requirement for covered states to keep racial data on voters, making it harder to document discriminatory practices.
Shortly after Donald Trump declared that if he loses the presidential election, it will probably have been “rigged,” his campaign announced that it would be recruiting poll watchers to “stop crooked Hillary from rigging this election.”
True the Vote, a group that has led the way in promoting the myth that massive voter fraud by undocumented immigrants is shifting election results, is heeding the call.
In an email to supporters yesterday, True the Vote president Catherine Engelbrecht, a former Texas Tea Party activist, asked for donations to train poll workers and relaunch the organization’s poll-watching app. The email linked to a video appeal in which Engelbrecht warns that a “flood of illegal voters” could “turn over the Senate, the House and thousands of down-ballot elections, with the Supreme Court as the ultimate prize.”
She warns that people registering to vote when they get coverage through the Affordable Care Act and the movement to provide drivers’ licenses to undocumented immigrants are part of the “assault on freedom” that will result in undocumented immigrants stealing elections.
In-person voter fraud, which is what voter ID laws are supposedly meant to combat, is exceedingly rare, as are cases of noncitizen immigrants casting ballots. Even those rare cases often involve legal immigrants who are confused about the rules, rather than undocumented immigrants, who could risk even harsher penalties.
The chaos that has marked this election cycle will soon culminate in a perfect storm, a storm that will mask an underlying flood of illegal voters. Obamacare has registered millions since 2014. A year ago, illegals were given drivers’ licenses in states ranging from California to Maryland. A few months ago, leftists sued in federal court asking the judge to prevent states from stopping illegal aliens who are trying to vote. And the assault on freedom has continued into this summer, when Soros-funded leftists attacked voter ID laws in courts nationwide.
Now, while the American people are screaming to stop the madness, the Republican Party has chosen to cower and zero resources have been committed to election integrity. True the Vote is preparing to stand in that gap, stand against the storm that threatens to turn over the Senate, the House and thousands of down-ballot elections, with the Supreme Court as the ultimate prize. We plan to deploy thousands of people trained to keep watch for fraud, illegal voters and hackers bent on stealing the election, but we must raise $250,000 during August to ensure implementation.
As elections expert Rick Hasen has explained, while it’s common for campaigns to deploy observers to polling places, Trump’s “incendiary” rhetoric “seems to be an invitation to go and make trouble.”
True the Vote has a history of skirting this line. The group, which like Trump has suggested that Clinton could steal the upcoming election, sends volunteers to polling places, often in minority neighborhoods, leading to some charges of intimidating voters. When True the Vote launched its poll-watching app in 2014, it uncovered little evidence of even potential fraud but did unveil one case of an “African American woman” poll worker standing in a polling place in what one user thought was an intimidating manner.
In her email to supporters yesterday, Engelbrecht claimed that the Republican National Committee is powerless to “coordinate a ballot security program because of a consent decree they signed with the federal court.” She was referring to an agreement that the RNC signed after it was caught running a “voter caging” operation in minority neighborhoods in New Jersey in the 1980s. The agreement prevents the RNC from conducting such operations targeted at minority neighborhoods, but does allow the party to conduct “normal poll watching” activities.
Breitbart’s Ken Klukowski has a dispatch from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s latest effort to spread his innovative voter suppression policies around the country. Over the weekend, Kobach spoke at an American Civil Rights Union event at the Republican National Lawyers Association convention in Colorado, where he urged his fellow election officials and lawyers to adopt legislation modeled after a law he helped push through in Kansas.
Kansas’ voter ID law is one of the harshest in the country, requiring that those registering to vote produce “proof of citizenship” such as a passport, birth certificate or naturalization papers. Since the law went into effect in 2013, it has been caught up in legal battles as it wreaks havoc with the state’s elections.
In May, a federal judge ruled that Kansas couldn’t require people registering using a federal form to produce the burdensome extra documentation. In response, Kobach tried to set up a two-tier voting system in which people who registered using the federal form could only vote in federal elections and would be barred from casting ballots in state and local races. Then, in a last-minute decision, another federal judge ruled that Kobach couldn’t throw out the primary votes of more than 17,000 people who hadn’t produced the extra documentation, including many who had registered using the federal form.
As Klukowski reports, this is precisely the model that Kobach hopes will be adopted in every single state:
The Republican National Lawyers Association (RNLA) held a national election law seminar in Denver on Friday and Saturday, and the American Civil Rights Union (ACRU) convened an invitation-only event alongside RNLA’s seminar, featuring several secretaries of state, chief election officers, Republican former and current federal elections officials, and constitutional lawyers, to explore strategies to protect against voter fraud. Kobach spoke at both events.
During the ACRU event, Kobach touted his SAFE Act, which was designed to require proof of U.S. citizenship and proof of identity in a manner fulfilling the requirements the U.S. Supreme Court has held are consistent with the Constitution. It is model legislation for states to adopt as part of their election laws, rather than a federal law, since the Constitution entrusts the sovereign states with primary responsibility for holding elections.
Speaking exclusively with Breitbart News in Denver at the ACRU event, Kobach said, “Every time an alien votes, it cancels out the vote of a United States citizen. This is a nationwide problem.”
“Every state needs to address it and take steps to secure the most fundamental privilege of citizenship—the vote,” he added.
Kobach, who also specializes in draconian anti-immigrant legislation, acts like something of a one-man American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the group that helps spread conservative and corporate-friendly laws to state legislatures. In fact, Kobach responded on his weekly radio program last month to a critic who called him an “ALEC pawn,” saying that he is the one who is trying to get ALEC to spread voter restrictions across the country.
“I’ve been trying to get the American Legislative Exchange Council interested in photo ID and proof of citizenship,” he said. “They never called me and said, ‘Hey, Kobach, would you do this?’ I’ve been trying to get them off their backside and get them encouraging other states to do it.”
Many Republican leaders seemed shock that a candidate like Donald Trump would rise to become the party’s nominee after a campaign of demonizing immigrants, innuendo about President Obama and scapegoating Muslims, despite the fact that many top GOP leaders have launched similar attacks for years.
Trump has also benefited from Republicans’ frequent insistence that Democrats use voter fraud to win elections. Republican lawmakers have brushed aside studies that show that voter fraud is extremely rare — just 31 out of over a billion votes cast over 14 years may have been instances of voter impersonation — and instead have pursued sweeping legislation that would disenfranchise thousands of voters, particularly people of color and young people.
The GOP presidential candidate has told supporters that November’s election results will likely be “rigged” as people go “ to vote 10 times maybe” and charged that “phony” polls underrepresent his level of support because they don’t reflect his the size of the crowds at his rallies.
Ari Berman points out that if “Trump wanted to vote 10 times in New York — a state that requires voters to sign their names at the polls rather than show a photo ID — he’d have to vote in 10 different places, know the names and addresses of nine different registered voters in nine precincts, be able to forge their exact signatures, and know that they hadn’t voted yet. Each fraudulent vote would carry a penalty of five years in jail and a $10,000 fine, plus additional state penalties.”
Nonetheless, Trump believes that if he loses in November, it will be because the election was stolen: “I hope the Republicans are watching closely or it’s going to be taken away from us.”
Such baseless rhetoric has obviously resonated with Republicans:Around half of GOP voters believe that Obama stole both of his election victories, a result of years of conservative complaints about how Democrats win elections thanks to massive fraud.
One anti-voting-fraud group, True the Vote, developed a smart phone app in 2014 to help users expose instances of fraudulent voting and “pull the curtain back on the myth that there is no voter fraud.” But as Miranda noted, “users recorded only 18 incidents of election irregularities,” and the vast majority had nothing to do with voter impersonation. Many right-wing fears about widespread voter fraud have made their way from chain emails to WorldNetDaily to Fox News, even though there is little evidence behind them.
Besides voter impersonation, many Republicans claim that undocumented immigrants are illegally voting in elections. Then-Rep. Michele Bachmann claimed that Obama unlawfully granted the right to vote to millions of undocumented immigrants before the 2012 election, even though Obama’s executive order on deportations did not grant anyone the right to vote. Fox News pundits have also raised the specter of undocumented immigrants illegally voting, even though in states like Arizona, there have only been two cases of undocumented residents voting in about 10 years. Several conservative commentators have even alleged that the Obama administration tried to win votes by handing out free cellphones.
In fact, far more common than actual cases of voter fraud or instances of conservatives admitting that the voter fraud myth is all about creating an excuse to pass restrictive laws that will help them win elections. Just a few months ago, former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, now president of the influential Heritage Foundation, said that voter ID laws are “something we’re working on all over the country, because in the states where they do have voter ID laws you’ve seen, actually, elections begin to change towards more conservative candidates.” Shortly before that, Republican Rep. Glenn Grothman said that voter ID could make a difference in how his state votes in the upcoming election: “Hillary Clinton is about the weakest candidate the Democrats have ever put up and now we have voter ID and I think voter ID is going to make a little bit of a difference as well.”
Donald Trump has never met a conspiracy theory that he doesn’t like. This one was handed to him on a silver platter by the party that is now trying to distance itself from his wildest claims.
June 25, 2016 will mark the third anniversary of the Shelby County v. Holder decision that gutted the heart of the Voting Rights Act. A coalition of more than 100 organizations, including People For the American Way, are participating in a Week of Action to raise awareness about voter suppression and to pressure Congress to restore the protections of the Voting Rights Act.
In 1965, the Voting Rights Act was passed in hopes of bringing the United States closer to the promise of a true democracy: a political system in which all people can fairly and easily participate in government, regardless of race. One of the VRA’s most significant protections was found in Section 5, which requires states and localities with a history of racial discrimination in voting to seek federal preclearance to approve proposed changes to their voting process. This preclearance sought to address decades of voting practices that disenfranchised communities of color. The provision worked. For nearly 50 years, the VRA, and in particular, Section 5, helped curtail the disenfranchisement of voters of color and helped expand the electorate so that it became more representative of the populace. It succeeded in helping the United States progress towards a more inclusive democracy.
However, three years ago, on June 25, 2013, democracy in America was dealt a major blow. On this day, the Supreme Court, in its controversial Shelby County v. Holder decision, struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which defined what areas were covered by Section 5 preclearance. States immediately began to implement new voting restrictions, including strict voter identification laws, limitations on early voting, and the elimination of same-day voter registration. These barriers to voting — implemented under the guise of making elections more efficient and limiting so-called “voter fraud” — disenfranchised eligible voters across the country, disproportionally affecting underrepresented communities such as people of color, women, students, the disabled, and low-income individuals. We have already seen the negative effects of these voting restrictions in our midterm elections and presidential primaries.
Come November, the stakes will be raised. As the Leadership Conference Education Fund notes in their new report on the likely impact of the Shelby County decision in this election cycle:
2016 will be the first presidential election in 50 years without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act. It is also an election that could be won or lost in just a few key states – states where minority voters could determine the outcome.
The report notes that five states formerly covered, in whole or in part, by preclearance — Arizona, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia — will all see competitive races in the fall, in which voters of color could be decisive. But voters in these states are now without the full protections of the VRA. The Shelby County decision still has very real consequences, and could alter the face of our political landscape in 2016.
As Election Day rapidly approaches, now is the time to call on Congress to restore the full protections of the Voting Rights Act. The Shelby County decision was a huge setback to American progress towards a truly fair and accessible democracy, but we can move forward again. Legislation aimed at restoring the protections of the VRA is already pending in Congress. Tell your representatives that a democracy in which eligible voters are unable to cast their ballots is a broken democracy, and that it is their duty to help mend it.