On the same day President Trump’s voter fraud commission held its first public meeting, Rhode Island became the 10th state to protect voting rights.
Pro-democracy nonprofit Common Cause tweeted on Wednesday that with Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo’s signature on an automatic voter registration bill, there are now 10 states that automatically register citizens to vote when they obtain or renew their state driver’s license, with Illinois potentially becoming the 11th state to do so very soon:
RI now joins OR, CA, AK, CO, GA, WV, VT, CT, & DC in enacting auto voter reg.
We also expect IL Gov. @GovRauner to sign an AVR bill soon.
— Common Cause (@CommonCause) July 19, 2017
The election integrity commission, which is partially led by controversial Republican Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, has been recently criticized for paving the way for a massive purge of voter rolls. In an op-ed published on Wednesday, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights president Vanita Gupta wrote that her biggest fear was that the Trump administration would “issue a report with ‘findings’ of unsupported claims of illegal voting, focused on communities of color.”
“These wild claims won’t be just hot air,” Gupta wrote. “Members of Congress will seize on them to turn back protections in federal law. States will enact new barriers to the ballot box. Courts will point to the commission’s work to justify their decisions.”
Gupta’s fears are well-founded. In its first public meeting, Kobach argued that there were as many as 18,000 “non-citizens” who illegally participated in the 2016 election in Kansas, though Kobach did not produce any verifiable documentation to back up his claims.
In the past, Kobach has been successfully sued multiple times for disenfranchising voters, particularly people of color, according to The Independent. Kobach is also considering using information from the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program (IVRCP) to identify voters registered in multiple states in order to purge them from voter rolls and conceivably prevent those people from voting in future elections. However, because the IVRCP only identifies voters by first name, last name, and date of birth, minority communities would be disproportionately impacted, according to Slate:
Crosscheck is astoundingly inaccurate; the most comprehensive study found that it produces 200 false positives for every double registrant it discovers. The system is more likely to accuse minorities of double registration; 1 in 6 Hispanics wound up on Crosscheck’s list of suspicious voters. And registering to vote in two states isn’t even illegal, as Steve Bannon well knows.
The Trump administration’s election integrity commission was met with multiple hurdles as 44 states either outright or partially refused to comply with the commission’s initial request of voters’ sensitive information, including Social Security numbers and home addresses. As of this writing, the commission has not yet published any recommendations.
Michael Boone is a freelance journalist and columnist writing about politics, government, race, and media. He graduated from Texas Southern University’s School of Communication, and lives in Houston’s Third Ward.