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Despite President Trump’s debunked claims that millions of Americans voted illegally in the 2016 presidential election, his newly established “Election Integrity Commission” is asking states to turn over all publicly available voter registration data, putting a massive amount of sensitive information in the hands of people whose true intentions are not clear.
In response, LCV and numerous other progressive organizations joined the Hip Hop Caucus’ #RespectMyVote rally outside the White House, which coincided with the first meeting of this new commission. The weather, much like the current political climate, was scorching. However, people came by the dozens, in pantsuits and t-shirts alike, to show the administration that they will not allow their votes or voices to be silenced. Within 15 minutes of the rally’s beginning, those peacefully demonstrating against the systematic suppression of voters found themselves suppressed, and #RespectMyVote began to trend.
Despite having a legal permit to assemble in Layfette Park, the demonstration was forced out of the park by police officers wielding AK-47s while the area was blocked off with police tape. Shaken but still strong, the demonstration continued on the sidewalk adjacent to the park. Hip Hop Caucus CEO, Reverend Yearwood, reflected on the guards’ use of AK-47s to silence protestors.
LCV recognizes that the right to vote is the keystone of democracy, and our sister organization, the LCV Education Fund, has long worked on issues around increasing voter participation. Making our voice heard through the vote is a fundamental right in America, but restrictive voting laws and commissions like Trump’s undermine this right, leading to voter suppression, particularly among communities of color, the elderly, students, and people with disabilities. Voting is a catalyst for change as well as an important safeguard that protects the interests and wellbeing of people across the country.
Claims of extensive voter fraud have been continually proven false, however, that is not stopping Trump from continuing to fear monger. To make matters worse, Trump has put the self-proclaimed “ACLU’s Worst Nightmare,” Kris Kobach, in charge of this commission. Kobach is the man behind Kansas’ voter purge disaster. As Kansas’ secretary of state, Kobach put in place one of the most extreme voting laws in the country, requiring not only an ID but also proof of citizenship to register to vote. Since this law passed in 2013, 1 out of 7 people who attempted to register to vote in Kansas were unable to. In addition, the U.S. Court of Appeals unanimously found that Kobach was responsible for the “mass denial of a fundamental right” by preventing 18,000 motor voter applicants from registering to vote. This is the “expertise” Kobach brings to Washington as head of Trump’s new commission.
This commission will target communities that traditionally vote for Democrats, such as young voters, people of color, and low-income voters in both rural and urban environments alike. The people who will be targeted by this commission are also those who are hit the hardest by the impacts of pollution and climate change, making it even more important that their voices and votes are heard. Judging by the size of this rally, it is clear the fight has only just begun, and LCV will continue to stand up and fight back against any attempt to undermine the people’s right to vote.