Just because President Trump has disbanded his misbegotten voter-suppression commission doesn’t mean that true proponents of election integrity can relax. This administration’s attempt to deny huge swaths of Americans their right to vote continues. Trump simply seeks to add another layer of opaqueness to the process.
The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity sounded benign. It was anything but — created based on the president’s lie that the 2016 presidential election was riddled with fraud. Problem was, Trump won the Electoral College, but lost the popular vote to nemesis Hillary Clinton.
To this day, that really rankles the president. However, the commission appeared to be one more element in Republicans’ campaign to suppress the votes of minorities, young Americans and others who likely don’t support them. We’ve seen vote-roll purges, clampdowns on voter registration and limits placed on accessibility to the polls in many states, including, sadly, Florida.
Tellingly, though Trump insists that fraud is rampant, he cites no evidence, and the states themselves have not unearthed any. That’s because vote fraud is rare across the nation. But the president installed a staunch supporter of this myth, Kris Kobach, the secretary of state of Kansas, as the panel’s vice chairman.
The commission’s inner workings were a mystery even to its members. It met only twice. It shunned federal rules that required it to hold open meetings and to make its agenda public.
The one thing it did manage to do was brazenly ask states to submit a frighteningly huge amount of information on each and every voter, including names and addresses, dates of birth, political affiliations and the last four digits of Social Security numbers, plus their voting history. The commission also wanted to know who had been convicted of a felony.
If any other country had requested this depth of information on its citizens, we would call it a dictatorship.
Some states complied, others complied to a point. Still others, rightly, balked. Florida turned over information that’s already public, including voters’ names and whether they had recently cast a ballot. State law, however prohibits turning over driver’s license information and Social Security numbers.
With the commission gone, the question now is: What happens to this personal information? Trump has moved the commission’s underhanded mission to the Department of Homeland Security, which, indeed, is charged with making sure elections are clean.
Several lawsuits against the commission are ongoing, including one filed in federal court by the ACLU of Florida challenging the commission’s lack of transparency and its authority to collect personal data. Now the data’s fate remains an unsettling, and unsettled, issue. Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, told the Editorial Board that its legal team filed for a temporary restraining order to keep the data from being given to the DHS.
“We are seeking to prevent that. We want the data returned, destroyed, or embargoed,” Simon said. So do we. This information should not be in unsecured hands, used — or rather, misused — especially by this revenge-driven administration.
A DHS spokesman said on Wednesday that, “The department continues to focus our efforts on securing elections against those who seek to undermine the election system or its integrity.”
DHS best start with the White House.