A year ago, most of us were reeling from the blow that Donald Trump had won the electoral vote. Not long after, Trump tweeted one of his first 100 percent BS statements as President-elect:
Given that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 2.9 million, Trump was asserting that approximately 3 million people had voted illegally. There is zero evidence for that assertion. Where did it come from? Kris Kobach, the secretary of state of Kansas and one of the authors of Arizona’s infamous SB 1070.
Thanks to an ACLU lawsuit that recently unsealed documents Kobach has tried to hide, we know that Kobach met with Trump shortly after the election to get the ball rolling on a voter suppression effort.
Kobach claims he’s trying to prevent non-citizens from voting. Basing his figures on a debunked study, Kobach said that “you’d have 3.2 million aliens voted in the presidential election, and that far exceeds the current popular vote margin between President-elect Trump and Secretary Clinton.” He can’t prove this because, he said, “This is the problem with aliens voting and registering. There’s no way you can look at the voter rolls and say this one’s an alien, this one’s a citizen.”
It’s unclear whether Kobach has fooled himself into believing the fantasy of mass non-citizen voting. What is clear is that Kobach’s prescription for healing this nonexistent disease would prevent people of color and immigrant citizens – who predominantly vote Democrat – from voting.
And that would be very convenient for the radical Republican Breitbart columnist who is running for Kansas governor in 2018. It would also be convenient for his Trump-supporting colleagues.
Typically, people registering to vote must simply sign a statement affirming they are U.S. citizens and provide a driver’s license number, Social Security number, or other proof of residency.
But in Kansas, Kobach implemented a law in 2013 that required people to bring a birth certificate, passport or other citizenship document when they registered to vote. Many individuals – especially poor people, the elderly or young, and people of color – lack access to these documents and cannot afford to pay for replacements. As a result, more than 36,000 Kansas residents had been prevented from voting by December 2015.
The following year, the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals blocked Kobach’s law, saying it violated the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which prevents states from enacting unnecessarily harsh voter registration rules.
So what did Kobach do next, according to the now-unsealed documents? He wrote a new draft of the NVRA that changes the wording from this…
“The voter registration application… may require only the minimum amount of information necessary to… enable State election officials to assess the eligibility of the applicant.”
… to this:
“The voter registration application… may require any information that the State deems necessary to… enable State election officials to assess the eligibility of the applicant.”
This rewrite would warp the NVRA’s purpose (to make it easier for people to vote) so that it would serve the exact opposite purpose.
On November 20, 2016, Kobach met with Trump, Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Jared Kushner and Reince Priebus and presented his agenda for the administration’s “First 365 days.” One of the items was “Stop Aliens From Voting… Draft amendments to National Voter Registration Act to promote proof-of-citizenship requirements.”
The ACLU later demanded Kobach produce this agenda. Kobach lied and said “no such documents exist.” Unfortunately for him, he’d been photographed with the documents in plain view. The judge fined him and demanded he reveal the papers.
There are several reasons to be deeply concerned about Kobach’s machinations. In May, Trump made Kobach vice chairman of his Commission on Election Integrity – a name as disingenuous as the Ministry of Truth in the novel 1984.
One of Kobach’s first moves was to request that all 50 states send the commission information on every voter, including their name, address, date of birth, political party, last four digits of their social security number, and their voting history from 2006 onward. Many states refused, partly or entirely.
Since then, the Commission on Election Integrity has been as transparent as a swamp. That worries members of the Kansas City Star’s editorial board, who stated last week, “The commission’s lack of transparency and visible accomplishment could be a smoke-screen designed to protect it from criticism and embarrassment until next year, when it can drop dubious recommendations and unsubstantiated claims just weeks before the mid-term elections.”
The 2018 elections could be an enormous game-changer, so many Republicans are doing anything they can to prevent Democratic voters – including people of color – from coming to the polls.
This could be one of many nefarious things going on behind closed doors while Trump distracts the nation with his outrageous behavior. It’s more important than ever to pay attention.