Trump, Sessions Lay Groundwork to Stop Millions of Americans from Voting in 2018 and 2020 Elections
U.S. President Donald Trump realizes the Republican Party’s chances of winning in the 2018 and 2020 elections may be dim at best so he has enlisted the help of avowed racist and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to do his dirty work.
Trump and Sessions have began laying the groundwork to kick millions of voters, most of them minorities, off voter rolls before the 2018 and 2020 elections.
Former Department of Justice officials and voting rights advocates are crying fowl over a recent letter by the DOJ to numerous states asking election officials in those states to detail their compliance with a section of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA).
The letter was sent the same day a Trump commission on election integrity, headed by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, sent another letter asking for personal, non-public information of registered voters.
Nearly every state has rejected the request by the Pence-Kobach commission.
The NVRA was enacted to help make it easier for Americans to register to vote but it also contains a provision specifying when voters can be kicked off voting rolls.
According to voting experts, the DOJ letter raises all sorts of alarms.
It comes on the heel of the creation of President Donald Trump’s Commission, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which purports to investigate voter fraud but which experts have indicated is simply aimed at finding a way to suppress minority votes during the 2018 and 2020 elections.
Experts say the DOJ letter in conjunction with the earlier letter sent out to all the states by the Trump commission may be part of a multi-faceted effort by Trump and Sessions to restrict voting rights.
Former DOJ officials said while there may not be anything unusual about the DOJ sending a letter to state election officials, it is unusual for the department to send out such broad request to so many states at the same time.
They said such a broad request for information could indicate the DOJ is preparing to bring lawsuits against States for non-compliance as a way to purge voter rolls before the upcoming elections.
An alarmed Vanita Gupta, the CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and former head of DOJ’s civil rights division under President Barack Obama said “these two letters, sent on the same day, are highly suspect, and seem to confirm that the Trump administration is laying the groundwork to suppress the right to vote.”
“It is not normal for the Department of Justice to ask for voting data from all states covered by the National Voter Registration Act. It’s likely that this is instead the beginning of an effort to force unwarranted voter purges,” he added.
Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School and a former deputy assistant attorney general in the civil rights division in the Obama administration is also worried about the DOJ move.
“If this went to any individual states, I don’t think anybody would’ve blinked twice,” he said.
“The Department of Justice does investigations all the time, but those are usually based on individualized predicates to believe that there’s a problem in a given area, in a given jurisdiction. And I’m not aware of a similar letter being sent to blanket jurisdictions across the country,” he added.
Another former DOJ official, Sam Bagenstos who was the principal deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights from 2009 until 2011 said that “when you see DOJ send a bunch of letters like this requesting information about compliance with the law, that’s usually a sign that they’re kicking an enforcement campaign into gear.”
He added that “it looks like what they’re doing is they’re laying the groundwork to file lawsuits against states that, in their view, aren’t kicking enough people off of the rolls.”
Trump DOJ officials denied that the letters were aimed at voter roll purges.
Justice Department spokesman, Devin O’Malley said the department’s review of list maintenance procedures has not been done in years.
“The Department of Justice is committed to free and fair elections for all Americans. Congress enacted the NVRA’s list-maintenance provisions specifically to advance that goal. The Department had not conducted a review of state and local list-maintenance activities under the NVRA for many years,” Devin O’Malley said in a released statement.
He added that “the Department looks forward to working with state and local election officials to facilitate appropriate list-maintenance activities toward our common goal of free and fair elections for all voters.”
But experts are skeptical.
Former DOJ official Sam Bagenstos said it is not coincidental the Trump administration chose to send both letters the same day.
“What an amazing coincidence that these letters went out on the same day. This administration is, without even knowing it, doing parallel efforts to try to trim the voting roll. I don’t buy it,” he said.
Another expert David Becker who is the the executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and a former DOJ lawyer, agrees.
“In the quarter-century since passage of the NVRA, of which I spent seven years as a DOJ lawyer enforcing the NVRA, among other laws, I do not know of the DOJ conducting any other broad-based fishing expedition into list maintenance compliance, whether during Democratic or Republican administrations,” he wrote.
Becker also pointed out that the DOJ letter focused only on the part of NVRA about voter list maintenance procedures and completely ignored the part of the law that seeks to make voting easier for every American.
Common Cause’s director of voting and elections, Allegra Chapman also sounded skeptical about the DOJ letter saying she found it amazing the DOJ was not interested in parts of the law that sought to improve voting registration opportunities at public assistance agencies.
Common Cause is a non-profit organization.
“To me, that indicates this agency just has zero interest in ensuring the rights of poor Americans too and ensuring that, you know, people across the income divide are equally being given the registration services that they’re entitled to under federal law,” she said during an interview.
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