Former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander will be joined by former members of President Barack Obama’s staff as he takes on a new role as a national advocate for voting rights.
Kander, a Kansas City Democrat who lost a narrow race to Republican Sen. Roy Blunt in November, said that there’s been a coordinated effort to suppress voting in recent years and that “now that President Trump is in the White House that campaign is being run out of the White House.” He’s launched a new national organization, Let America Vote, to combat that effort.
President Donald Trump has repeatedly pushed a baseless claim that illegal voters tipped the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton in the election and has called for a federal investigation into voter fraud.
Kander’s new group filed with the Federal Election Commission on Monday. Kander said that new laws meant to restrict voting have cropped up at state legislatures around the country since the election and that his organization “will be there to expose the motivations of those efforts.”
Kander opposed efforts to enact a voter ID requirement in Missouri last year. Republican lawmakers overrode then-Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto and the measure passed as a statewide ballot initiative with 63 percent of the vote.
“There’s no doubt that states that have extreme voter ID laws ... have seen incidents where people who should’ve been able to cast a ballot haven’t been able to,” Kander said.
Missouri Rep. Justin Alferman, a Hermann Republican who has clashed with Kander on voter ID, called Kander the “perfect example of an elected official who cannot stop being in the spotlight.” He contended that Kander’s efforts would keep his name relevant to “West and East coast liberals” rather than Missouri voters who supported voter ID by a wide margin in the last election.
Alferman said that Missouri lawmakers have “made every concession ... to make sure there wasn’t a single voter disenfranchised” under the state’s new law, which allows people without ID to still cast ballots if they sign an affidavit stating they have never received a Missouri ID but are eligible to vote.
Former White House press secretary Josh Earnest praised Kander as “someone who has a long track record on these issues as secretary of state and has pushed back on some of these cynical efforts to make it harder for people to vote.”
Earnest, who is from Kansas City, will sit on the group’s board of advisers along with an array other high-profile activists and Democratic Party stalwarts, including Martin Luther King III, former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau and Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood.
“I think Jason’s hope and — I think he’s right about this — is this is larger than just one faction of the Democratic Party. Protecting access to the ballot is something that every American should agree on,” Earnest said.
Supporters of voter ID and other voting restrictions say these measures prevent voter fraud. However, many election experts say the prevalence of voter fraud has been overstated. A study by Loyola Law School in Los Angeles found only 31 cases of voter impersonation, the type of fraud prevented by ID requirements, occurred out of 1 billion ballots cast between 2000 and 2014.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has championed the passage of stricter voting laws, called the claim that these laws are intended to disenfranchise an “absurd charge” and dismissed Kander’s new group as “a feeble attempt...to remain politically relevant.”
“He didn’t make a serious effort to go after double voting. I think he took a blind eye to voter fraud,” said Kobach, the only secretary of state in the nation with prosecutorial power.