The Advancement Project’s Executive Director Judith Browne Dianis hosted an online chat about race and attacks on voter rights.
Kayla Reed, activist/organizer and founder of the St. Louis Action Council, and Tram Nguyen, co-executive director of New Virginia Majority (NVM), joined Browne Dianis for “The Right to Vote in a Hostile Climate.”
Their talk streamed live from the Advancement Project’s national office on Facebook July 18. The webcast occurred a day before the controversial Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity held its first meeting, heavily focused on the topic of voter fraud.
President Donald Trump established the commission, a.k.a. the Pence-Kobach Commission, by executive order on May 11. Vice President Mike Pence is chair and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is vice chair. Both are Republicans.
“This is a commission that’s supposed to be about integrity, but we don’t expect that, that’s what they’re going to be talking about. Instead, this is a witch-hunt for voter fraud,” charged Browne Dianis.
According to Tram, the commission’s plan is about making it harder for certain folks to exercise the right to vote.
“How it’s played out in Virginia, I think the witch-hunt is particularly around immigrants and new Americans, to be honest,” said Tram, a naturalized citizen.
She came to the United States in 1981 as a Vietnam refugee, she shared. When she raised her right hand, and swore to uphold America, it was the proudest day of her life, Tram said. Sadly, many new immigrants won’t have that experience, she stated.
“America’s democracy is supposed to be this pillar, this standard, the gold standard,” Tram said, but instead, with the current wave of new immigrants, people are exhibiting paranoia around a manufactured “alien invasion.”
Tram said perhaps there’ll be a lot of hype around voter fraud and elections theft, and people can expect to see a lot of clamp downs.
“We’re going to see efforts to put forward citizenship requirements in order to register to vote, barriers that are just going to make it more difficult for people to be able to exercise that right,” said Tram.
Browne Dianis followed up, saying the underlying effort of the commission is about making it harder to vote.
Pence said Trump created the commission to help to promote fair and honest federal elections.
“…We have no preconceived notions or preordained results. Our duty is to go where the facts lead and to provide the President and the American people with a report on our findings that can be used to strengthen the American people’s confidence in our electoral system,” Pence said during their inaugural meeting.
Before introducing Reed to give her opinions on why she feels the Trump Administration is moving to make it harder for many people to vote, Browne Dianis delved into the Black experience, which she said was far different from Tram’s ability to have a voice.
“For Black folks, clearly, that has not been our story. While we know that it is a precious right, we have had a journey, since the beginning of time, since the beginning of the establishment of the Union, around whether or not we could vote,” Browne Dianis said.
Reed said she thinks that the commission was conceived after Trump failed to win the popular vote, during the November presidential elections.
The conversation swirled around validity and integrity, dog-whistle terms to say who actually should be voting in America’s democracy, Reed said.
“America, as we know, puts itself up on this pedestal to be the democracy in the world, but really has a long history of being anti-democratic in all the ways of making sure that people could not vote, whether that’s gender, whether that’s race, it’s been a long and continuing fight to be able to vote,” added Reed.
In her opinion, what people are seeing is a commission that is really trying to preserve the power of the minority, which in actuality are the Republicans, Reed continued.