Voter information is not something to play with.

Credit: Scott Olson/AP

Thank You, Massachusetts, For Protecting Our Voter Privacy

July 9, 2017

Massachusetts said no. So did more than 44 other states. All have rejected or partially rejected the request for voter data from President Trump’s newly formed Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler was firm saying, “You’re not going to play politics with Louisiana’s voter data.” Election administrators and Attorneys General in other states say they will not hand over voters’ names and addresses. Nor will they release other requested personal information, including birth dates, political affiliation, voting histories and the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers. The Social Security request is especially rich coming from this president — a man who has perfected the art of protecting his Social Security number on his never-released tax form.

President Trump is plenty angry by the states’ refusal to cooperate with his Presidential Commission. The aim — apparently — is to ferret out the voter fraud that the President believes happened in the 2016 campaign; an official way to prove his repeated yet unproven assertion that three million people voted illegally. He’s tweeted that his Commission is “distinguished” and asked, “What do they (the states) have to hide?” State officials argue they are not hiding voters’ information, but protecting voters’ confidentiality.

I’m relieved and apprehensive about this latest tug of war between the states and the White House: relieved that Massachusetts and other states are stepping up to protect my right — and yours — to voter privacy, apprehensive because the Presidential Commission’s request for confidential voter information seems a step toward turning our free and open elections into something like the so-called show elections in North Korea. There, voting is a public rubber stamping. Election officials know exactly how you vote because there is one candidate on the ballot. They know who votes because voting is mandatory, with an assured 100 percent turnout.

You can argue that I’ve dived into sinister fantasy, but the documented evidence of racial and political voter suppression in this country is devastating and dangerous. In less than a year the Supreme Court has sanctioned North Carolina twice for illegal tactics “targeting African-Americans with almost surgical precision.” Across the country, there has been a tripling of legislation to challenge, restrict or strip voters of their rights. Alarmingly, certain Presidential Election Commission members have supported those actions. For example, The Guardian newspaper reported Commission member, Georgia attorney and MIT grad Hans van Spakovsky was instrumental in purging thousands of eligible voters from the Florida rolls in the 2000 campaign. An audit found the purge 95 percent wrong and again, nearly all focused on African-Americans.

From North Korea to North Carolina, voters’ rights are being manipulated with tactics stamped with the Presidential seal of approval. We can’t do anything about North Korea, but we can firmly and strongly push back against even the smallest attempt here to control who gets to vote and for whom. Just 50 years ago many people lost their lives in a moral struggle to guarantee that all Americans have the right to vote. I’m not giving up my right to the ballot without a fight.

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