The past few weeks have been a bit of a roller-coaster for fans of voting rights. First, the good news. The Supreme Court declined to hear a case which alleged that 2013 voting rules pushed by the North Carolina GOP (strict voter ID laws, restrictions on early voting and election-day registration) were racially discriminatory. But there’s bad news too. President Trump has established a “Presidential Commission on Electoral Integrity” that will be vice-chaired by one of the worst voter suppression advocates in the country. Today, we fight back against voter suppression.
As former Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach championed the most draconian voter ID laws in the country. He disenfranchised thousands of Kansas voters, mostly Black, Latinx, poor, or elderly (or a combination of the above). Trump has named him vice chair of his new “voting commission.” As your warm-up today, click “Get Started” to read stories of voters denied the ballot due to lack of funds or documentation. Post on social media about what you’ve learned, and as always, tag us @mycivicworkout so we can show off how hard you’re working!
Whew. Nice work! Let’s look at the laws where you live right now. Does your state have strict voter ID laws? You can check the status quo in your state at this link. No matter how your state is doing, call your state legislator and express your disapproval for voter ID laws. We’ve included two scripts below, and you can click “Get Started” to find your state legislator.
If your state has “strict” voter ID laws: “Hi, my name is [Name] and I’m calling from [Town]. I am calling to ask the representative to introduce legislation rolling back [State’s] repressive voter identification laws. Research shows that voter fraud is extremely rare but that strict voter ID laws suppress the votes of minorities, the poor, and the elderly. That’s un-American and we need to change the law so that all [State] residents can freely vote.” If your state does not have strict voter ID laws: “Hi, my name is [Name] and I’m calling from [Town]. I am calling to ask the representative to oppose any efforts that may be coming from the state or national level to establish strict voter identification laws in [State]. Research shows that voter fraud is extremely rare but that strict voter ID laws suppress the votes of minorities, the poor, and the elderly. That’s un-American and we need to ensure that all [State] residents can freely vote.”
In the “Second Wind” article below, you’ll encounter an interview with an expert on voting rights, Ari Berman. In it, he talks about how repressive voter ID laws would have disenfranchised his own grandmother, who moved from Brooklyn to Iowa when she was 89. Your 30-minute workout today is to think of someone in your own life who might have trouble voting if draconian voter identification laws were put into effect—whether it’s your grandmother who was born at home and never had a birth certificate, your aunt who moved to an assisted care facility near her children and never got a new driver’s license, or your friend who only has a student identification and a utility bill. Sit down and write a letter or postcard to both your US senators about what you have learned in today’s workout, and the impact of potential voter ID laws on people in your life. You can find their addresses by clicking below.
For more on the Presidential Commission and the potential for a “chilling effect” on voting rights, check out NPR’s Fresh Air from last week with writer Ari Berman, author of the book Give Us The Ballot: The Modern Struggle For Voting Rights In America.
I really think this is Kris Kobach’s commission. Even though he’s the vice chair of the commission, I think he’ll be the driving force behind it. He became secretary of state of Kansas after the 2010 election. And Kansas put in place one of the toughest voting laws, if not the toughest voting law in the country. It not only required strict voter ID, but it required proof of citizenship to register to vote. So if you try to register to vote in Kansas, you need to provide your passport, your birth certificate or your naturalization papers.