Jason Kander was secretary of state of Missouri from 2013 to 2017. In 2016, he was the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate from Missouri.
No doubt realizing that he was losing the cable-news message war, President Trump has called for a witch hunt in an attempt to prove the voter fraud lie he has been telling himself about why he lost the popular vote in November.
On both sides of the aisle, conventional wisdom chalks this up to the president being a very insecure person struggling with the reality that 54 percent of American voters chose someone else, but that doesn’t give the president his due. Trump’s staggering inferiority complex clearly is just one of two reasons he’s telling the biggest version yet of a lie that his party has been telling about voter fraud for years. The other reason is that he’d like his party to win the 2018 midterm elections and he’d like to be reelected in 2020, and to do those things he needs to suppress voter turnout.
By deliberately undermining confidence in the integrity of our democracy, the president can make it quite a bit easier for his party to push legislation making it harder for certain eligible voters to vote. Curtailing voting rights by dishonestly inventing widespread fraud has been a major part of the Republican Party’s political strategy for a while. Now that plan is getting a major boost from a president who has no problem just making stuff up.
Voting in our country has never been easy, and unfortunately it has never been guaranteed for everyone. But through the work of brave civil rights leaders, some of whom died for the cause, by the early 2000s we were at a point where most, but still not all, people who wanted to vote could do so.
That’s when the GOP started going backward on voting rights. Today, it’s not that some GOP strategists don’t want black people, for example, to vote because they’re black — it’s just that they don’t want them to vote because they don’t usually vote for Republicans. Over the past decade, these efforts have gained momentum. Extreme voter photo-identification laws started popping up all over the country. In nearly every case, they reduced voter turnout.
The impact of these extreme voter laws was clear in 2016. In Wisconsin, election turnout hit a 20-year low. Election officials in the state pointed to a noticeable turnout decrease compared with 2012 in high-poverty areas where voters may have had the greatest difficulty complying with the recently implemented photo-ID law.
What these laws across the country mandate is that eligible voters obtain a specific form of identification that they don’t necessarily need for anything else in their lives beside voting. If that isn’t a poll tax, I don’t know what is. Whether it costs money or time, or is impossible to comply with because someone doesn’t have a birth certificate, it’s no less wrong here and now than it was in Selma, Ala., a half-century ago.
Americans are struck by lightning with greater frequency than they commit voter impersonation fraud, and that’s the only kind of fraud that photo ID requirements could have any hope of preventing. Photo ID is often referred to as a solution in search of a problem, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. It actually solves a huge problem for Republicans. Minorities, women, the poor and the disabled are all less likely to have state-issued photo identification. They also have a nasty habit of voting Democratic. When they can’t vote, problem solved.
Trump is doing the country a disservice making things up about the integrity of our elections. But it’s important to remember this isn’t just about him overcompensating for his embarrassment that nearly 3 million more people voted for Hillary Clinton than for him. This is about the president’s reelection campaign. He wants Congress and state legislatures to make it easier for him to win in four years by making it harder for people to vote.
No matter your political party, you should stand up to Trump on this one. We should agree that every eligible American should have the opportunity to cast a ballot, even if he or she happens to be in the substantial majority who chose to vote for someone not named Donald Trump.