Commentary: Trump’s ‘integrity’ panel spreads falsehoods about elections

The right to vote is a critical principle of our democracy. We want our election system to be free, fair and accessible to all eligible voters.

President Donald Trump’s sham panel — the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which was formed in May — has launched an assault on the right to vote.

Led by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, this so-called Commission on Election Integrity is laying the groundwork for potential voter suppression by the wrongful removal of eligible voters — including black, Hispanic, elderly and student voters — from the rolls. The agenda of this commission is part of a wider effort to suppress the vote, keep certain politicians in power and undermine our elections by spreading falsehoods about or elections system.

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Kobach’s request in July for sensitive voter roll data — including the names, addresses, dates of birth, political party affiliation, past voter history and even partial Social Security numbers of registered voters — is a dangerous violation of privacy. The League of Women Voters has serious questions about the legality of releasing this personal information.

These requests come from an individual who has no interest in free and fair elections — and with a record of preventing eligible citizens from participating in in our democracy. Kobach has been brought to court — and lost — several times for suppressing the constitutional rights of citizens to vote in his home state of Kansas.

The commission’s views on elections are well-known; its members have already been discredited as political ideologues with dangerous agendas. This commission intends to use its “findings” and recommendations to legitimize policies that are known to prevent eligible voters from having a voice in our elections.

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The cost to voters is far greater than anything to be gained from collecting this data. Dozens of secretaries of state agree with the League and have said publicly that they will not comply with Kobach’s request to turn over sensitive voter information.

On June 30, Texas Secretary of State Rolando B. Pablos agreed to Kobach’s request for voter information. His statement said: “The Secretary of State’s office will provide the Election Integrity Commission with public information and will protect the private information of Texas citizens while working to maintain the security and integrity of our state’s elections system. As always, my office will continue to exercise the utmost care whenever sensitive voter information is required to be released by State or Federal law.”

The League of Women Voters of the Austin Area is dedicated to ensuring that all eligible voters — particularly those from traditionally underrepresented or underserved communities, including first-time voters, noncollege youth, new citizens, communities of color, the elderly and low-income Americans — have the opportunity and the information to exercise their right to vote.

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We urge Pablos to reconsider this request and defend the privacy of American voters.

Democracy works best when everyone participates. The League of Women Voters encourages you to tell the sham commission you want to see them work on ways to increase participation and modernize our elections.

We will not allow them to intimidate voters or prevent them from exercising their right to vote. Our democracy must work for all so we can have thriving communities, a just economy and a healthy planet. We need to give local election officials the tools they need to ensure our elections are secure, modern and accessible for all Americans.

McIntyre is director of advocacy for the League of Women Voters of the Austin Area.

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