Yesterday, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Voting Integrity convened their second official meeting at St. Anslem College, in Manchester, New Hampshire. The group, led by right-wing extremist Kris Kobach, who is currently the Kansas Secretary of State, continued to take aim at our voting rights.
Kobach gained local notoriety over the past week as he made the claim that Senator Maggie Hassan only won because of thousands of illegal votes from out of state residents. He claimed that because 3,000 people voted in NH with out of state licenses that their votes were examples of voter fraud. The claim was quickly debunked due to the fact that NH does not require voters to have NH drivers license or to register their automobile with the state in order to legally vote.
“It’s alarming to see New Hampshire being singled out by the national voter suppression movement,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter. “This Commission has no claim to credibility after failing to condemn last week’s out-and-out lies from Vice Chair Kris Kobach about our state’s voters. Granite Staters should consider any claims made during this meeting with extreme skepticism.”
“Study after study, report and report, and even previous commissions have shown that voter fraud is extremely rare and always very isolated,” said Alex Padilla, California Secretary of State. “That is proof that the current protections are working, but we have policies and technologies in place to allow us to facilitate the participation in the political process to more and more citizens. We have a moral obligation to do that.”
Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who is currently serving the people of New Hampshire in the U.S. Senate in Washington D.C, submitted written testimony to the commission.
In her testimony, Senator Shaheen condemns the commission’s clear intention to make it more difficult for Granite Staters to vote, writing, “The truth is that, here in New Hampshire and across the nation, voter fraud is extremely rare. I am deeply concerned that falsehoods about illegal voting are being spread as a pretext for restricting access to the ballot box. This risks disenfranchising eligible voters and undermining faith in our democracy.”
“Granite Staters take pride in our state’s brand of open and direct democracy, which encourages maximum participation, including by college students and active-duty members of the military who live in our state. It is not the New Hampshire way to make voting unnecessarily difficult or to target specific groups of voters with deliberately onerous ID laws,” Shaheen wrote.
Senator Maggie Hassan joined Senator Shaheen in submitting legislation to disband the commission.
“I am deeply concerned that since its inception President Trump’s voting commission has attempted to mislead voters and erode trust in the voting process by pushing misleading claims that have been debunked time and again. It is clear that this commission is simply a partisan exercise to lay the groundwork for new attempts at voter suppression, which is why I joined Senator Shaheen in cosponsoring a bill to disband the commission.”
“President Trump’s voter commission has been formed with the predetermined conclusion that voter fraud is a widespread problem and that restrictive voter ID laws are necessary to safeguard our democracy,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “This is despite the fact there is no evidence of such fraud. Rather than protecting our democracy, voter suppression efforts threaten to undermine the legitimate right of people to exercise their self-determination at the ballot box.”
Kuster added, “The accusations levied by Secretary Kobach are an insult to thousands of local officials and volunteers, both Republican and Democrat, who ensure our free and fair elections in New Hampshire and make the Granite State worthy of being the first-in-the-nation presidential primary.”
“Our elected officials should be working to facilitate civic involvement and build voter participation, especially amongst college students and younger voters,” said St. Anselm student Olivia Teixeira on behalf of the NH Young Democrats. “Instead, with sham commissions like the one meeting today on my campus and through bills like SB 3, Republican’s are using baseless lies of voter fraud in an attempt to suppress voter turnout.”
“If we want to attract and retain young people to our state, we should be working to empower younger voters to take part in our state’s proud democratic process by advocating for modernizing our voting systems and registration,” Teixeira added.
Aside from the continued discussion on the non-existent voter fraud problem the commission also discussed possible solutions to “strengthen” the integrity of the election process.
At one point, John Lott, a right-wing shill, proposed the idea of using the same background check system we currently use to buy firearms to verify a voters’ eligibility. Lott is new to “voting rights” advocates however he is well know in “gun rights” circles. Even before Lott presented his skewed testimony, the Brennan Center for Justice issued a warning, not to believe Lott’s “fuzzy math.”
“Lott’s statistical analysis includes far too many variables and controls – a tell-tale sign of statistical chicanery,” wrote the Brennan Center for Justice.
Additionally, Commission member and former Ohio Secretary of State, Ken Blackwell, suggested that long lines at the polls were a “good strategy.” This is the same man who “distributed voter lists with the Social Security numbers of 5.7 million voters.”
“Today, we met the various characters who decorate Trump’s sham commission. Unfortunately, their fringe conspiratorial thinking is not a caricature but an understatement,” said NH Democratic Party Chair, Ray Buckley. “From absurd proposals to run registered voters through background checks to one commission member calling the creation of long voting lines a ‘good strategy’ to Kobach re-asserting his claim of voter fraud in New Hampshire, it’s clear this commission has an agenda, the focus of which is voter suppression. Kobach showed he was willing to lie to the Granite Staters’ faces about New Hampshire law and embarrass Secretary Gardner in his own state by delegitimizing election results.”
“This is a commission that welcomes, absorbs, and operates in conspiracy. President Trump is getting his way when this commission entertains baseless voter fraud claims, muddying the waters and creating uncertainty and distrust in our election system.” Buckley added.
Outside, over a hundred people gathered to protest Trump’s “sham commission.” Among the protesters were members of the NH Chapter of the League of Women Voters, the ACLU of New Hampshire, America Votes, the NAACP, Granite State Progress, Mayday.US, and the national group Let America Vote.
The protests also garnered a special appearance from Cleanup Carl. “Cleanup Carl is a 12 ft tall superhero for democracy. Committed to taking on the dirty villains trying to destroy our democracy with their toxic anti-voter influence.” Cleanup Carl is project of grassroots democracy organization MAYDAY America.
“This commission is the real threat. It’s a toxic mix for our democracy!” said Cleanup Carl through his spokesperson MAYDAY National Campaign Director Chris Tallent. “New Hampshire residents and Americans should take caution! Some of the most dangerous contaminants known to democracy, Kris Kobach, Mike Pence, and the rest of the sham ‘election integrity’ commission will be in New Hampshire this morning to try to advance their dirty agenda. That’s a volatile mix for democracy! Time to clean ‘em out of our democracy and uphold the right for everyone’s voice to be heard!”
Many of the people outside were also calling on NH’s Secretary of State, Bill Gardner, to resign from this “sham” commission.
“One thing is clear: New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner doesn’t belong with this cast of conspiratorial misfits,” said Buckley. “He has carried out free and fair elections for over four decades and any suggestion to the contrary is offensive, incorrect and dangerous. Gardner cannot risk sullying New Hampshire’s sterling reputation by remaining on a commission that is willing to travel to our state to insult us in service of a baseless conspiracy designed to suppress votes.”
Gardner, who is currently the longest serving Secretary of State, is “being used by the Trump/Pence sham commission,” said a group of New Hampshire Voters who recently started a petition calling for Gardner to resign his position in the commission.
In response to Trump’s Election Integrity Commission, the Democratic National Committee joined with allies and created the Commission to Protect American Democracy from the Trump Administration. The DNC held a press call to explain how the Trump administration’s voter fraud commission is working to suppress the fundamental democratic rights of Americans and to lay out the steps that Democrats are taking to fight back.
“Make no mistake: this isn’t a war on voter fraud, it’s a war on voters. And it’s only being waged by Republicans, and we will not let our guard down for a moment. As Democrats, our goal is the engage every eligible American voter as an active participant in our democracy,” said Tom Perez, Chair of the DNC. “We want to make it easier for people who are eligible to vote, not harder for them to vote. And that means fighting voter suppression tactics to create free, fair, and accessible elections. We must protect the one right that preserves all others—the right to vote.”
“Instead of building themselves around policies that reach out to communities like minorities and low incomes folks and the elderly and the disabled, instead of doing that, they’re just going to exclude those folks from democracy. That’s their solution. And it’s cynical, and it’s wrong, and it’s un-American,” Jason Kander, Chair of the DNC commission, former Missouri Secretary of State, and President of Let America Vote. “We’ve had this argument before in America. Folks marched across a bridge, American heroes did, in Selma. And they faced batons, they faced down dogs and hoses, and it was all for the simple idea that in America everybody counts. We shouldn’t go backward. We should only go forward on these issues.”
Ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed public comments outlining the glaring problems with the Commission including its lack of ideological diversity or commitment to transparency in accordance with federal law.
“Today’s Commission meeting in New Hampshire lacked diversity, facts, or actual solutions to support our democracy and combat voting discrimination that we know prevents racial minorities from voting,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Instead, Kris Kobach and his colleagues continued marshaling data in misleading ways to continue building a false narrative that voter fraud exists. This myth has been widely discredited, and yet we listened to commissioners reiterate these claims in ways that proved truly irresponsible.”
“Today’s Commission meeting must be viewed in the context of a Justice Department that has all but abandoned its obligation to enforce laws that would eliminate voting discrimination. The Commission is part of the administration’s broader agenda to promote national policies that would make it harder for minority communities to vote,” Clarke concluded.