Many things are certain in the universe. The sun will rise and set. The Kardashians will take selfies. Kris Kobach will try to purge voters from the rolls.
A Wednesday op-ed in The New York Times addressed President Donald Trump’s so-called “election-integrity” commission, headed by Kobach, that is searching for the 3 million “illegal voters” Trump said caused his loss of the popular vote.
The group held their first official meeting Tuesday, after demanding that states give the commission personal data on voters. But one important thing lost in that request was a letter sent by the Justice Department’s civil rights division forcing 44 states to disclose how they keep their rolls updated. The letter goes on to cite a 1993 National Voter Registration Act, known as the Motor-Voter law, that demands states help voters register. However, it doesn’t ask whether they’re complying with registration, it focuses on maintenance of the lists.
“That’s a prelude to voter purging,” writes Vanita Gupta, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
Typically, the Justice Department asks for information one state at a time and only if there is evidence the state isn’t complying with the Mobile-Voter requirements. A blanket request is reportedly “unprecedented,” while the department has the authority to investigate whether states are in compliance.
Gupta warns the Trump administration is setting up efforts to develop an “enormous voter suppression campaign through voter purges.” Since voter rolls determine whose votes count in an election, she explains that they serve as a “main gateway to political participation.” It turns a regular purge of a small segment of voters into a massive effort to kick more people off the rolls to create a more narrow electorate.
She predicts the government will create a national database to find double-voters, but they’ll base it off of people who have the same name and birthdate, not the same social security number, since the states have all refused to deliver that information. So, John Smith born May 27, 1985, and living in Utah might get purged from a different John Smith born May 27, 1985, living in Florida. One only needs a simple google search of their own name to discover just how many people match your identity.
“Such errors will hit communities of color the hardest. Census data shows that minorities are overrepresented in 85 of the 100 most common last names,” Gupta explained.
Which makes voter purges are part of a “larger malicious pattern that states have employed across the country.” Both Georgia and Ohio are already being sued for instituting versions of what the Trump administration wants to see ahead of the 2018 and 2020 elections.
Kobach is famous for his crusade against the Mobile-Voter program and has been sued at least three times for trying to make it harder to vote in his state of Kansas. The most recent concern was that he illegally blocked tens of thousands from registering before the 2016 election. Ken Blackwell, who is also on the commission, rejected voter registration forms because he thought the paper they were printed on was too thin.
Another member of the commission, Hans von Spakovsky, tried, unsuccessfully, to fight voting rights. J. Christian Adams published personal information about people he wrongfully accused of committing felonies while searching for voter fraud.
The sloppy work of the commission reflects the sloppy attempts from these same men to use the board to reduce the voting population. Lawsuits from states pushing back have slowed their efforts but many fear that the commission’s “findings” will result in preventing more people of color from voting. Gupta predicts members of Congress will use the findings to pass laws that further restrict voting and red states will develop more discriminatory voter ID laws.
There have already been reports of citizens desperate to remove themselves from the voter rolls out of fear that their personal information will be leaked or revealed to hackers and result in ID theft. One Florida election official has had numerous calls begging to be purged. One Denver official said her office has seen a 2,150 percent increase in voter registration withdrawals.
“We need to push back. Voting experts must debunk the administration’s false claims of fraud,” Gupta closes. “Civil rights law firms should continue to litigate. Local politicians from both parties ought to stand firm against pressure from Washington. The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights coalition will be in the thick of this fight.”
The internet responded to the new op-ed with rage and demanded lawmakers stop the “witch hunt” by Trump’s hand-picked commission.
The Voter Purges are Coming, and it’s a witch hunt by the Trump Admin and Kris Kobach – who should resign. Protect your personal info.
— Janell8ItAll (@LiveLoveLifeDo) July 19, 2017
AND gerrymandering AND voter suppression AND voter purges AND hackable machines AND corrupt local elex officials. Then we MAY have dem. back https://t.co/JUXGGZQlUR
— Cat (@TheKoolcat01) July 19, 2017
I see “The Voter Purges Are Coming”. The voter purges have already been here, they do everything to purge and suppress in red states.
— Nich DiCaprio (@NichDiCaprio) July 19, 2017
Voter purges have been used in state after state to disenfranchise people of color. We must put a stop to this. https://t.co/KlITjqzbdR
— Yvette D. Clarke (@RepYvetteClarke) July 19, 2017
— Kate Oh (@kathoh) July 6, 2017
Others used it as an opportunity to spread bizarre conspiracy theories and misinformation:
“The Voter Purges Are Coming” Because Grandma just won’t stay dead. pic.twitter.com/N5Rp5khnke
— Christopher Valence (@ChrisValence) July 19, 2017
The Voter Purges Are Coming pic.twitter.com/xIjKKT5rXD
— Mr. Redcap (@Ghastly_Grinner) July 19, 2017