Voting rights advocates who worry that President Trump’s “Commission on Election Integrity” is a thinly-disguised ploy to enact massive voter suppression in America will be alarmed by a letter the administration sent to election officials in all states yesterday.
Jessica Huseman, a senior reporting fellow with ProPublica, tweeted out a copy of the letter, in which the administration requests every state to submit:
[P]ublicly-available voter roll data including, if publicly available under the laws of your state, the full first and last names of all registrants, middle names or initials if available, addresses, dates of birth, political party (if recorded in your state), last four digits of Social Security number if available, [and] voter history from 2006 onward.
The letter was sent by Kris Kobach, the Vice Chair of Trump’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity and one of the most notorious voter suppression advocates in the country. (Vice President Mike Pence, pictured above, heads this nasty piece of work.)
Huseman also linked to a nationwide memo sent out by the Department of Justice. The memo requested all states submit information on how their voter rolls are maintained.
The chilling directive could be the first step in the White House fight against the false problem of “voter fraud”—a move that many fear would embolden the administration to suppress votes nationwide. As ThinkProgress noted, Kobach has used similar information in his voter suppression crusade in his native state of Kansas.
Of course, voter fraud is a myth that has been debunked time and again. One study, released in 2014, found that out of 1 billion votes cast, only 31 ballots were “impersonated” (meaning, cast under someone else’s name) . This is the sort of fraud that voter ID laws are designed to prevent.
Other kinds of voter fraud, including false registrations, multiple voting, and absentee ballot fraud are also incredibly rare.
The Trump administration is filled with people who have attacked voting rights.
At the head of the pack is, of course, Trump himself. He has doggedly repeated the lie that millions of non-citizens voted in the 2016 elections as way of explaining how he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ record on voting rights is also concerning. In 1985 he prosecuted three black civil rights activists for voter fraud. Sessions’ role in that case would eventually derail his nomination to be a federal judge.
In response to Trump’s voter fraud commission, civil rights groups have set up hotlines to help protect the votes of minority groups. Meanwhile, the Commission on Election Integrity’s first meeting is set for next month.
Update, 5:42 PM: California and Virginia both announced they would refuse to comply with the request.
Correction: this post initially said that a study examined 31 billion votes. It actually looked at 1 billion votes, finding that just 31 were fraudulent.