“Give us the ballot.”
Sixty years ago today, Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and told a deeply divided nation that the denial of basic voting rights is “a tragic betrayal of the highest mandates of our democratic tradition.”
This week, his words are echoing in my ears. Just a few days ago, President Trump announced a commission to investigate “voter fraud.”
Here’s the problem with that: no matter how much it irks the President that he lost the popular vote, there is not one piece of data to back his claims of fraud at the ballot box. Not one.
Instead, the data points to a very different kind of problem—voter suppression. That is, the strategic, nationwide effort the Republican Party has undertaken for years to expand voter ID laws, undermine same-day registration, and do whatever they can to make it more difficult for certain people to access the ballot box—namely minorities, the poor and the elderly.
Why? Because those groups don’t tend to vote for Republicans. Why? Because Republicans don’t have their backs in Washington.
So President Trump is barreling ahead with his phony commission, and he’s appointed Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to lead it.
Kobach is not a person you would want in charge of voting rights laws.
He’s the man behind some of the strictest, most detrimental, voter identification laws in the country. Kobach advocated for Kansas’ discriminatory law that requires new voters to produce a passport, a birth certificate, or naturalization papers in order to cast their ballots—a blatant attempt to make it harder for certain populations to vote.
And make no mistake: this is not just another policy whim for President Trump. This is the latest round in a carefully coordinated GOP campaign aimed at disenfranchising people they don’t want voting.
We’ve seen it in North Carolina. We’ve seen it in Texas. We’ve seen it in Wisconsin.
There is no more sacred and fundamental guarantee of American citizenship than the right to vote—equally and absolutely. It’s how we hold our leaders accountable. It’s how we make our voices heard.
This is going to be one of the biggest fights of the 2018 election cycle—and I’m glad you’re in it with me.