Dear Mr. VP,
Look at this smiling face.
Gosh, what a jaw. If I saw him on the street I’d think, “Who’s that guy and can we get a beer?” Until he opened his mouth to talk, at which point I’d back away sideways with my eyes on him at all times. Like you’re supposed to do with a bear.
That’s Kris Kobach, who’s going to be vice chairman of the new Commission on Election Integrity. That’s doublespeak for “Commission to Suppress the Votes of People of Color”, and might I congratulate you on being the chairman!
Let’s learn about Kris Kobach, your new BFF.
- Working through the Immigration Law Reform Institute, he helped to draft SB1070, the Arizona law that gave license to law enforcement officials to ask people for proof of citizenship, effectively attempting to legalize the harassment of people of color, in particular Latinx folks.
- He’s a birther: “While campaigning for Kansas secretary of state last year, Kris Kobach decided to have some fun at a Republican barbecue in Leavenworth. Lifting a joke from Rush Limbaugh, he asked his fellow conservatives what President Obama and God had in common. The punch line: neither has a birth certificate. Later, he told another rally that the questions about Obama’s birthplace were fair as long as the president failed to produce a so-called “long form” birth certificate.”
- Kobach destroys what he touches. Cities and towns end up paying tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees to defend his anti-immigrant legislation, it usually gets shot down, and racial tensions skyrocket. In the town of Fremont, Nebraska, which passed some of Kobach’s anti-immigrant legislation, a local group collected 65 reports of racial harassment and intimidation from Latinx community members. “They told of threats to set their businesses on fire, BB guns being fired at them and their children, and being subjected to racial taunts.”
- Kobach is the guy who told Romney he should pitch self-deportation: the idea that millions of immigrants who have called this country home for years and years would just choose voluntarily to pick up and go back to their country of origin. This is laughable to many, but a threat if you’re a member of those communities, since it seems like what he’s actually saying is “We’re going to make your life so miserable here you’ll just pick up and leave.”
- In Kansas, Kobach was the instrumental force behind a law to require proof of citizenship in order to register as a voter despite the fact that there is little to no evidence of widespread voter fraud in this country. (This study found 31 credible reports of voter fraud among 1 billion ballots cast.) Requiring ID during voter registration is just a way to keep poor and marginalized people from voting.
- The ACLU currently has four active lawsuits against Kobach for voter suppression.
And then there’s the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, a brainchild of Kobach that I decided deserved more than a measly bullet point. In my life, cross checking is a hockey penalty, and I could even go so far as to demonstrate the referee hand signal, so don’t ever question my sports knowledge.
But off the ice, Crosscheck is a program that compares voter rolls in enrolled states to look for duplicates, or people who are registered in more than one state. It’s one of those things that sounds sort of benign on the surface — make sure people aren’t voting twice! — but in actuality is a front for taking the ability to vote away from people of color. A Rolling Stone report said this: “According to our analysis, the Crosscheck list disproportionately threatens solid Democratic constituencies: young, black, Hispanic and Asian-American voters – with some of the biggest possible purges underway in Ohio and North Carolina, two crucial swing states with tight Senate races.” Crosscheck is really just about matching names — the lists Rolling Stone got didn’t even include Social Security numbers for actual validation. If you have the same name as someone in a different state, you might be flagged and removed from the voter rolls.
Want to know more about who is on the Crosscheck lists? “One in six Hispanics, one in seven Asian-Americans and one in nine African-Americans in Crosscheck states land on the list.” Why? Because people of color are overrepresented in the most common last names in this country, and Crosscheck just makes a giant list of people who have the same names. So ultimately, an awful lot of people of color are threatened with disenfranchisement, i.e., Kobach’s wet dream.
All of this is to say that Kris Kobach has no real interest in electoral integrity, but instead an interest in keeping people of color, who disproportionately vote for Democrats, out of the voting booth. That’s how the U.S. will keep electing Republicans despite the demographic shifts happening in this country, and that’s terrifying.
If you have any integrity at all (and I’m pretty sure you don’t, because you were also accused of voter suppression while governor of Indiana) you’ll refuse to work with Kobach.