For a while there, it appeared that the GOP’s long-running assault on voting rights was finally losing steam. In recent years, federal courts have struck down or significantly weakened several of the country’s worst voting restrictions. At the same time, many states—including red ones—have debated or passed bills to expand access to registration and polling places. But that was before Donald Trump was elected. As president, Trump has refused to let go of his unhinged claim that “millions” of people voted illegally last November—and has used his unsubstantiated accusation of voter fraud to lay the groundwork at the federal level for a new round of voting restrictions. Republican legislators from New Hampshire to Texas are also moving swiftly to enact a wave of new laws that would make it harder to cast a ballot. Since January, according to a recent report by the Brennan Center for Justice, at least 99 bills to restrict voting rights have been introduced in 31 states. “It looked like we had turned a corner in terms of slowing down new restrictions on voting,” says Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s voting rights project. “It turns out the pace has accelerated.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions moved quickly to signal the new administration’s disdain for voting rights. In February, shortly after his confirmation, the Justice Department withdrew its claim that a voter ID law in Texas was intentionally designed to discriminate against black and Hispanic voters. The message to states was clear: Under Trump, they would have free rein to enforce existing restrictions on voting—and to enact new ones.
In May, based on nothing more than the president’s wild claims, the White House announced a presidential commission to investigate voter fraud—and then stacked the panel with some of America’s most notorious opponents of voting rights, including Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell. In his order creating the panel, Trump pointedly directed it to shore up the public’s “confidence” in elections—putting the emphasis on perception rather than reality. “It’s not designed to seek data at all,” Justin Levitt, a constitutional scholar at Loyola Law School and former Justice Department attorney who oversaw voting rights in the Obama administration, wrote online. “The commission’s job is to manufacture security theater—to confront manipulable fears about problems that don’t yet exist.”
Full Article: The New Assault on Voting Rights | New Republic.