By Sam Levine
December 6, 2017
Two sessions at a summit this week for one of the country’s most powerful conservative groups will focus on voting, something civil rights groups and voting advocates are alarmed by and say could signal the group’s renewed interest in restrictive voting policies.
The focus on voting from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is significant because the group disbanded its Public Safety and Elections Task Force in 2012 following significant pressure from civil rights groups. Beginning in 2009, the task force helped draft model legislation for states to impose voter ID requirements that critics say makes it more difficult for people to vote.
ALEC is an association of about 2,000 state lawmakers with close ties to big business and conservative groups. ALEC produces model legislation on conservative issues that lawmakers can then introduce in their respective statehouses. Among the model measures ALEC backed is the controversial “stand your ground law” and legislation that limit the ability of localities to raise the minimum wage.
An ALEC spokeswoman said in 2012 the organization was ending the task force to focus more on economic issues. But at a policy summit this week, the group will hold two panels focused on voting issues, setting off alarm bells among activists.
“After a lot of controversy over voter ID, ALEC disbanded its task force that dealt with democracy issues and purported to be out of the business of mucking around with voting laws,” said Arn Pearson, general counsel for the Center for Media and Democracy, a group that closely follows ALEC. “This is the first time we’re seeing them come back in on it.”
One of the panels will be [an ACRU-sponsored] “voter integrity workshop,” in which election experts will “discuss important voting policies and legislation in the states to improve the integrity of elections, the accuracy and security of state voter registration rolls, and new ways to verify the eligibility of voters.” The panel will also discuss “policy concerns” regarding automatic voter registration, a reform with bipartisan support advocates believe can add millions of Americans to the voting rolls.
A different panel will focus on redistricting as states gear up for the next round of redrawing electoral maps in 2021….
The panels also have increased significance amid President Donald Trump’s allegations of widespread voter fraud and a commission he created in May to investigate it. Led by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), members of the panel have favored voter ID, proof of citizenship laws and forcing states to more aggressively purge their voter rolls.
J. Christian Adams, a member of the Trump voter fraud probe, said in a statement he would be participating in the ALEC panel about election integrity. Adams has sued jurisdictions to try and force them to more aggressively purge their voting rolls and has said the Department of Justice is not doing enough to make sure states are maintaining accurate rolls.