Democracy and Voting Rights

File photo by Jill Toyoshiba jtoyoshiba@kcstar.com

Voting
Candidate Trump talked about voter fraud before the election, telling audiences that the only way he would lose Pennsylvania was due to voter fraud. Now his obsession with his loss of the popular vote to Hillary Clinton has morphed into a pending Congressional investigation into voter fraud. The rhetoric is dangerous, perpetuating the lie that American’s cannot trust our vote, and calling into question the election process.

Last year, a Dartmouth study looked for statistical fingerprints of fraud and found no evidence. The report states “Voter fraud concerns fomented by the Trump campaign are not grounded in any observable features of the 2016 presidential election.”  The National Association of Secretaries of State — an organization of the elected officials responsible for conducting elections at the state level — released a statement saying that it was “not aware of any evidence that supports the voter fraud claims made by President Trump.” Luckily, Thomas Jefferson was right - Voting works.

And yet while there is no evidence of voter fraud, we do have voter suppression. “Stronger voting procedures” in the form of voter ID laws (sold to combat voter fraud) in fact suppress voting. A study from the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office found that new voter ID laws in Kansas and Tennessee reduced the total vote in those states in 2012 by approximately 100,000 votes. Those most affected were young people, black people and newly registered voters.

Constitutional Contempt
Along with repeating the lie that millions voted illegally in the election, and calling the free press the “enemy of the American people”, Trump questioned the institutional legitimacy of the “so-called judge” after our Federal Judiciary blocked his initial travel ban. Trump appears to have a total disdain for basic democratic and institutional constraints – the checks and balances put in place by our founders to protect us from the threat of tyranny.

Money in Politics
Citizens United and related court cases allowing unlimited campaign spending have had a direct impact on electoral and policy outcomes at the state and local level where even a comparatively small infusion of cash can make a big difference.

Ironically, perhaps the single most powerful dynamic at play in the 2016 campaign was the disdain so many Americans feel toward an economic and political system that isn’t working for them. Those feelings animated not only Trump’s supporters, but also those of Clinton’s primary opponent, Bernie Sanders. It’s likely they also had a hand in the decision of millions of eligible voters not to vote. This widespread disenchantment feeds off a sense that politics is a game for the wealthy and connected. Overwhelming majorities agree there is “too much money in politics.”

We should consider how campaign finance reform relates to the broader constellation of proposals to create a democracy that works for everyone. So many aspects of the 2016 election are deeply troubling, including documented voter suppression, the ongoing effects of partisan gerrymandering, and — at least for some — the fact that the winner of the popular vote lost the electoral college for the second time in under two decades. These issues deserve solutions rooted in the same values of fairness, accountability, and inclusion that animate the strongest campaign finance reform ideas.

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Actions

Help with Get Out the Vote efforts including driving people to the polls.

Help with voter registration and with efforts to make it easier to vote (like online voting).

Volunteer as an election worker.

Educate yourself and others on the issues and candidates. Check out the League of Women Voter’s new Vote 411 website.

Find a candidate you like and get involved in a campaign.

Run for office.

Support ethics reform and donor disclosure.

Learn about campaign finance and money in politics.

Learn about proportional representation and follow the petitions to put proposals on the ballot in MO in 2018.

Begin an early voting initiative for Missouri.

Volunteer to collect signatures for Government by the People.

Organize – learn how at Obama’s Organizing for Action campaign.

 

 

 

Local and National Organizations

Local Organizations

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – Kansas and Missouri – defending and preserving the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

American Public Square –  changing public discourse by bringing non like-minded people together to create a forum for fact-based, civil conversations

Consensus – engaging the public in public policy

GKC Women’s Political Caucus – increasing women’s participation in politics and achieving equality for all women.

Government by the People – promoting seven ballot initiatives for the state of Missouri.

Kansas Progress Institute – nonpartisan think tank dedicated to promoting the health and prosperity of Kansas families and their communities.

League of Women Voters of KC/Jackson, Clay, Platte – nonpartisan organization making democracy work

Mainstream Coalition – mainstream, common sense, responsible and compassionate ideals

My Free Taxes – free tax returns for any household with income less than $64k.

Save Kansas Coalition – group of Kansas grassroots organizations working to reestablish democracy in Topeka.

National Organizations

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – defending and preserving the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

American Promise – working to end the influence of money in politics.

Brennan Center for Justice – nonpartisan law and policy institute that seeks to improve our systems of democracy and justice.

Democracy Initiative – network of 58 civil rights, environmental, labor, and civic organizations formed to restore the core principles of democracy and political equality.

Democracy Works – a nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the idea that voting should fit the way we live.

End Citizens United – a PAC dedicated to campaign finance reform.

Global Alliance for Tax Justice – group of organisations and activists campaigning for greater transparency, democratic oversight and redistribution of wealth in national and global tax systems.

Let America Vote – leading the fight for voting rights.

Open Secrets – the top resource for clear and unbiased information on money in politics.

Organizing for Action – Obama’s national community organizing campaign.

Rock the Vote – building political power for young people and on-line voter registration.

Voting Rights Institute – helping attorneys, expert witnesses, law students, and the public combat discriminatory voting practices across the country.

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