An ACLU Attorney Explains How Trump Is Trying to Strip Away Your Voting Rights

Image via Getty.
Image via Getty.

Though he won the election, Donald Trump has been unable to get over the fact that he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton. His baseless claim that millions of undocumented immigrants voted illegally in the election, has, perhaps, inspired the recently-created Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. Without any transparency or substantive plan, the commission has requested every state send in personal data of every registered voter—a request that was met with seven lawsuits from civil liberties organizations, including the ACLU.

On this week’s episode of Big Time Dicks, Jezebel staff writer Ellie Shechet and I talked to ACLU Voting Rights Project staff attorney Julie Ebenstein about the recently created commission, the Department of Justice’s disturbing new reversal on a long-standing voting rights policy that purges inactive voters, and state laws that have been chipping away voting rights in Ohio, North Carolina, and elsewhere in recent years.

Ebenstein is concerned about what the administration will do with this data if they receive it. “There are still privacy concerns, even with the new data request of the commission.” she said. “There hasn’t been any transparency on the methods that are going to be used to analyze this data, and what the reason for looking at it is. It would seem from a lot of observers’ perspective that this commission is just created to back up, somehow, that Donald Trump’s claim that 3 to 5 million people voted unlawfully in the last election—a claim that’s just bogus; it’s never been supported by fact of any kind.”

The commission, coupled with a wave of laws aimed at suppressing voters in wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down parts of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, suggests that this administration is attempting to strip away voting rights from Americans.“We’re concerned that this administration doesn’t really seem to take any interest in election integrity,” she said. “Certainly doesn’t intend to address voter suppressed or our depressed turn-out, or anything like that, but instead will take any evidence they could even marginally argue shows any indication of irregularities and just use that to pass laws that we saw in North Carolina and in other states.”


Ultimately, the way to fight voter suppression, Ebenstein says, is the way you’d fight anything else—call your representatives and let them know you don’t want your state to submit your data to the federal government. “This is one of the principles, really, of elections and democracy” she said, “that voters should choose their representatives, representatives shouldn’t choose their voters.”

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Prachi Gupta is a senior reporter at Jezebel.

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For my part, it’s this effort (the “Election Integrity” advisory commission) that scares me the most about the current administration. I guess that I feel that way because all the other noise and BS we see out the administration is so ostentatious and obvious that it seems so much easier for insidious efforts like this to creep along and make much more intractable changes to our elections process. Heck, even the Russia stuff seems almost like a smokescreen for the real damage that I believe the advisory commission can do. Maybe some conclusions will come out of the Russia thing (maybe some suggestions about what to do to prevent hack/attacks in the future) but none of that will do diddly for the systematic dismantling of voting rights that’s going on here.

(Also, and somewhat off-topic: May I please be elevated out of the grays? I’m generally nice (“mostly harmless”) and try very hard to be a thoughtful commenter. Thanks.)