America right now is a circus in which the clowns are armed to the teeth and the tent is collapsing all around us. It’s been a wild two weeks, packed with disturbing — if not unexpected — revelations about the forces conspiring against American voters. Democracy is under attack and the President of the United States not only doesn’t care, he’s actively helping to facilitate the assault.
On Monday, in what would be a stunning event if the last two years hadn’t been filled with ludicrously stunning events, Donald Trump stood up on stage next to a smirking Vladimir Putin and blamed the US for Russia’s undeniable hijacking of the 2016 elections. And then after giving the lamest excuse ever for his treason, he went and invited Putin to Washington, presumably so he could hand-deliver him some juicy national secrets.
And the scariest part of it all? Trump also said that he doesn’t think Russia is working to hack the 2018 elections, directly contradicting both the Director of National Intelligence and all logic.
There are mountains of evidence that Russian hackers targeted our decentralized, borderline disastrous electoral system in 2016. It wasn’t a fair fight — imagine a KGB agent taking aim at senior citizens whose email passwords are just the names of their grandchildren. We know that at minimum one state’s voter database was hacked, resulting in the theft of half a million voters’ sensitive personal information. That’s one state too many, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg — there were at least 21 states targeted in 2016.
Russians also hacked local elections and, despite what Trump says, have already targeted three congressional candidates. Dan Coats, the Director of National Intelligence, was incredibly blunt when talking about this last month, warning that “the digital infrastructure that serves this country is literally under attack.”
The Senate is trying to get states to upgrade their election security, and in March authorized a $380 million outlay for them to do so, but so far, few states have agreed to use that money to fortify their systems before the November election.
Meanwhile, the House Republicans’ budget strips away that funding to secure election systems protection money next year, and they refuse to allow a vote to reinstate that crucial funding. On top of that, the GOP is actively working to suppress votes in other ways, including gerrymandering to create non-competitive districts, enacting voter ID laws, shutting down voting locations and just straight up taking people (especially minorities) off the voting rolls (thank the Supreme Court for that one).
Ideally, progressive Democrats will win back the House and state governments this fall, and then pass laws that fortify elections systems and expand the right to vote. And we are working hard on that, but there’s also a more direct way to stop the worst of the abuses and beef up voter database security. It varies from state to state, but in a plurality of cases, elected Secretaries of State control a state’s elections, wielding an inordinate amount of power over our democracy.
Republicans control 28 of those offices, while Democrats hold 17. Not a great ratio, but it’s looking like the most endangered seats this fall are currently held by Republicans, giving Democrats an excellent chance of turning the tide.
We’ve already spoken a good bit about Kathleen Clyde, the Democratic candidate for Ohio Secretary of State. That’s possibly the most crucial race, given the state’s impending voter purge — Clyde has promised to cancel it if elected. Her GOP opponent, Frank LaRose, meanwhile, openly embraces Donald Trump.
There are a number of other classic or emerging swing states that will have hotly contested Secretary of State races that Democrats have a great chance of winning. We’re supporting candidates in Iowa, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, and Michigan… plus Georgia and Kansas, two GOP strongholds where circumstances put the race in play.
Michigan presents a classic swing state case. Its state government was hijacked by Republicans, who gerrymandered their way into total control of Lansing. But thanks to term limits and a lot of progressive energy, Democrats are poised to toss the GOP from office. Jocelyn Benson, the former dean of Wayne State University, is the Democratic candidate for Secretary of State, a role for which she is truly prepared — Benson wrote a whole book on the importance of the position. She’s currently working as the CEO of the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality, an organization that just so happens to be running a major voter education campaign right now.
Benson recently gave a great interview about the issues she’ll prioritize in office, and expanding the electorate, making it easier to vote, and protecting elections were at the top of the list.
As for Kansas and Georgia, Democrats will be trying to take advantage of voters’ exhaustion with corrupt, nasty Republicans Secretaries of State. Both Kris Kobach of Kansas and Brian Kemp are running for governor of their respective states, creating real openings for progressives to win in wave elections.
Kobach is both the most prominent and most reviled Secretary of State in the country. Not only did he create the fundamentally flawed interstate voter cross-checking database, he ran Trump’s all-too-brief “Voter Fraud” commission, which was such a spectacular failure that even the White House that embraces and promotes disasters decided to disband it. Kobach is running for governor (Republicans always fail up) and Democrats have nominated a solid outsider candidate in former tech exec Brian McClendon, giving them a better-than-usual chance to win.