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Voting Rights Update: Concerns about Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity

Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Photo courtesy of CBS News.

Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. Photo courtesy of CBS News.

Vice President Mike Pence on July 19 chaired the first meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The 15-member commission is co-chaired by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and commonly referred to as the Pence-Kobach Commission.

The commission’s mission is to “study the registration and voting processes used in federal elections.” Specifically, President Donald Trump’s contention is that the current federal voting system is vulnerable to:

  • Diminishing the American electorate’s confidence in the integrity of the voting processes used in federal elections.
  • Creating election laws, rules, policies, activities, strategies, and practices that undermine the voters’ confidence in the integrity of the voting processes for federal elections.
  • Creating potential vulnerabilities in voting systems and practices that could lead to improper voter registrations and improper voting, including fraudulent voter registrations and fraudulent voting.

The immediate concern among voter rights advocacy organizations is that the rationale for President Trump establishing the commission dubious.

For example, the executive order to create the commission can be traced back to the President Trump’s post-election tweet that read, “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” However, highly respected social justice organizations such as the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law have thoroughly debunked the president’s voter fraud assertions as being extremely exaggerated.

These erroneous assumptions and distortions have led many to suspect President Trump’s true motives for creating the Commission have more to do with voter suppression.

The wariness about the underlying intent of the Commission is reinforced by the fact Kobach is well-known for his views on activities that suppress voting. Kobach backed strict voter ID laws and advocated for states to require a birth certificate or passport for registration.  Such measures negatively impact low-income voters, including many voters of color.

Association members can expect to hear from NASW about activities of the Pence-Kobach Coalition in the weeks and months ahead.  There may also be calls to action based on actions made by the coalition. Please stand-by for updates

That he was named vice chair of the of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity is of deep concern.

More recently, The Brennan Center for Justice and Protect Democracy filed a lawsuit to force the Department of Justice and other relevant government agencies to disclose information about the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The suit was filed after the agencies failed to answer the Brennan Center’s request for information under the Freedom of Information Act.

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is a member of the Pence-Kobach Commission Coalition which is comprised of many national voter rights organizations. The coalition is facilitated by the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights. Its objectives are to monitor Pence-Kobach Commission activities and respond to the recommendations that emerge from the group. The actions of the Commission are of high priority for the Pence-Kobach Coalition. It is necessary to guard against attempts to limit voter participation in the 2018 and 2020 elections.

The next meeting of the Pence-Kobach Commission is September 12, 2017 in Manchester, NH at St. Anselm’s College from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The public notice is here.

Those of you in or near New Hampshire who can attend the meeting can send your name, phone number and RSVP to mailto:ElectionIntegrityStaff@ovp.eop.gov. Seats are expected to fill up quickly so send your RSVP your as soon as possible.

Association members can expect to hear from NASW about activities of the Pence-Kobach Coalition in the weeks and months ahead.  There may also be calls to action based on actions made by the coalition. Please stand-by for updates.

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