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Kansas City Star Op-Ed: Don’t be intimidated by Trump and Kobach’s election commission

This article was originally published in The Kansas City Star.

By Chris Carson

On Wednesday, the task force known as the Election Integrity Commission met for the first time. Despite their claims of having no preconceived agenda, we know their end goals are clear: to perpetuate unsubstantiated myths of widespread voter fraud and to lay groundwork to suppress voting rights.

Unfortunately, they might already be succeeding.

Since commission vice-chair and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach requested personal voter information from all 50 states, we have seen thousands of voters cancel their registration.

Kobach’s request for private information — including Social Security numbers, party affiliation and voter history — is not even legal in his own home state. And although many secretaries of state have rejected the over-reaching request, many Americans are unsettled.

And that’s exactly what he wants.

Kobach has devoted his career to using false claims of voting fraud to suppress voters. 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. Most recently, Kobach was fined by a federal magistrate judge for “patently misleading representations to the court.”

The League of Women Voters is no stranger to Kris Kobach’s suppressive efforts.

In 2013 the League joined as defendants in the case Kobach, et al v. U.S. Election Assistance Commission. In this case Kobach was seeking to enforce requirements on Arizona and Kansas voters to provide documentary proof of citizenship in mail-in voter registration application forms. Ultimately, the court found that these barriers were illegal.

Shortly after the 2016 election, President-elect Donald Trump met with Kobach and the writing was on the wall. Literally. Kobach was photographed with a memo outlining changes he wanted to see to American elections. And once Trump was sworn in, he began making the unsubstantiated claims that millions of illegal votes were cast — thus calling for this commission.

And now, Kobach is in good company.

Other members of the commission have similar views on elections and long records of suppressing voters. The League has reached out to specific secretaries of state who are on the commission, urging them to resign from the commission. In Indiana, the League has joined a lawsuit objecting to the release of personal voter information.

But this fishing expedition for voter information is intended to lead to more voter suppression — not improving our election process.

Our democracy works only when people stand up and vote. For nearly a century, the League of Women Voters has worked tirelessly to ensure that elections in this country are free, fair and credible. Hearing this commission peddle false claims about such important American rights is a direct threat to our democratic process and it belittles the real challenges too many American voters have faced in recent years.

This commission is the antithesis of “integrity.” And we can’t let them win.

Chris Carson is the president of the League of Women Voters. She lives in Los Angeles.