Last week, Republicans tucked a provision into the House Financial Services Appropriation Bill that would defund the modest, bipartisan Election Assistance Commission that tests and certifies the reliability and security of US voting systems. This was despite intelligence officials’ reports that Russia interfered with voting machines in 21 states during the 2016 election. And it fell within the same news cycle as the Trump administration’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity asking all 50 states to turn over voter registration information, including the last four digits of Social Security numbers and dates of birth.
The White House continues to suggest that widespread voter fraud accounts for Trump’s more than 3 million popular-vote loss with disregard to overwhelming consensus that voter fraud is a next to non-existent issue, as ProPublica has documented. The American Civil Liberties Union has sued the Advisory Commission’s vice chairman — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach — four times for voting rights-related abuses of power. His once widely adopted Interstate Crosscheck program led to wildly misrepresentative findings on the prevalence of double voting and resulted in removing thousands of citizens from voting rolls. Heritage Foundation fellow Hans von Spakovsky’s presence on the commission should quell any doubts that the administration plans to purge voter rolls. As Ari Berman reported for the Nation, “When von Spakovsky was nominated to the Federal Elections Commission, six former lawyers in the voting section called him ‘the point person for undermining the Civil Rights Division’s mandate to protect voting rights.’”
According to the Hill, at least 27 states are refusing to cooperate with the commission’s request, citing concerns for voter suppression and privacy rights. North Carolina will send currently public information to Washington but withhold information like Social Security numbers.
The White House’s request for such a broad swath of voter information is unprecedented, but limiting access to the ballot is an American tradition. We should make no mistake: These are the rumblings of a calculated effort to limit voter access.
Disturbing as it is, the scale and aggression of this plan signal the desperation of a party wrestling with inner turmoil as it attempts to maintain an electoral stronghold ahead of the 2018 and 2020 elections. As courts return more and more “guilty” verdicts to states engaged in racial and partisan gerrymandering, the GOP is mounting an unapologetic attack on voting rights, and they are counting on our apathy.