On Thursday, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) published a statement on Medium saying that, in light of the displays of white supremacy during the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” demonstration, President Donald Trump should disband his Election Integrity Commission and hold public hearings on the status of voting rights in America.
Schumer writes that Trump’s recent refusal to promptly denounce the KKK after the violence on August 11 and his implementation of the Election Integrity Commission are evidence that “his administration is promoting discrimination, both subtle and not so subtle, in its policies and actions — especially when it comes to undermining the universal right of every American to vote.”
The president’s Election Integrity Commission’s stated goal is to investigate instances of voter fraud — though the idea of voter fraud on a massive scale, suggested by Trump himself and reinforced by the formation of the commission, is a widely discredited theory. And typically, laws designed to prevent voter fraud wind up having a disproportionate effect on young people and people of color — those who tend to vote overwhelmingly Democratic. Many political observers have argued that Trump’s perpetuation of the false claim and his creation of the commission could jeopardize voting access in this country.
“This is how the appalling failure to use the right words and stand up to hate in the aftermath of Charlottesville is made real in the form of policy; they are two edges of the same sword,” writes Schumer.
The Election Integrity Commission was set up by Trump via executive order in early May to study voter fraud after he claimed several times that voter fraud cost him the popular vote in the 2016 election. But as Vox’s German Lopez writes, the risk of voter fraud has been widely overblown. One expert on constitutional law and election administration estimated that there have been at most a few hundred fraudulent votes out of a total of 100 million votes in national elections.
In his letter, Schumer proposes two courses of action to “heal this painful divide in our country,” by “showing that we can come together to stop the systemic disenfranchisement of American voters.”
In Schumer’s words:
1. Disband the Election Integrity Commission. If the president wants to truly show that he rejects the discrimination agenda of the white supremacist movement, he will rescind the Executive Order that created this commission. And if the president does not act, the Congress should prohibit its operation through one of the must-pass legislative vehicles in September. Many of us found the Election Integrity Commission distasteful when it was first created. The president’s recent failure to unequivocally condemn bigotry makes its rescission imperative.
2.Hold a series of public hearings on the status of voting rights in America. Let’s have a public debate about these issues where experts can discuss policies like same-day registration as well as alleged voter fraud. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, vice chairman of the Election Integrity Commission, should testify as well.
Schumer ended his letter by circling back to the events in Charlottesville, referencing them as a turning point:
“When the president began his ‘Election Integrity Commission,’ it raised a lot of eyebrows. But now, given what’s happened in the last several weeks, we’ve entered a new world and it’s even more important that the commission be disbanded.”