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On June 28, Secretaries of State across the country received a letter from the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity seeking information about their state’s voters. Many secretaries responded harshly to the request, but not Colorado’s Wayne Williams.
Indeed, he was one of only three Secretaries of State that praised the request. Williams said he “was very glad” the Commission was seeking such information before making any decisions. Williams received quite a bit of backlash on his position and decided to call a press conference to explain matters.
“I’m only providing that information which is publicly available,” Williams said, as if this would calm our fears of voter suppression and intimidation.
Secretary Williams misses the point— and he missed an opportunity. This was his chance to call out this Commission for, as Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes put it, “at best a waste of taxpayer money and at worst an attempt to legitimize voter suppression efforts across the country.”
Indeed, we have heard of people un-registering so that their information is not transferred to the Commission. Also, Pro Publica is reporting that the Commission intends to cross check state voter rolls with all other states and with federal databases to look for voter registration fraud. Of course, being registered in two states – like the daughter and son-in-law of the President – is not voter fraud. This cross check undoubtedly will result in false positives that will take time to unravel and in the meantime embolden the claims of those who love to traffic in conspiracy theories.
Secretary Williams also missed the opportunity to talk about a seriously pressing and REAL voting issue. In a good year, nearly half of eligible voters fail to vote. They are unregistered or otherwise fail to make it to the polls. As we mark 241 years of “independence” and celebrate our democracy, we should turn our attention to getting the tens of millions of Americans who don’t vote, registered and to the polls so they can express their views at the ballot box.
I wish this Commission would spend its time on this issue, strengthening our democracy instead of threatening it.
Denise Maes is the public policy director of the ACLU of Colorado.
Photo by justgrimes via Fickr:Creative Commons