New marching orders for vote suppressors: Target registration, not voter ID

One of the country’s top advocates for restrictive voting polices wants states to focus on making voter registration harder rather than an on passing more voter ID laws.

The new marching orders, given Thursday by J. Christian Adams (pictured), a member of the White House voting commission, are the latest sign of a key strategic shift in the campaign to suppress voting.

“Voter ID is an important thing, but it’s yesterday’s fight,” Adams told a group of conservative state lawmakers Thursday, according to a report. “Now we have things — probably the most dangerous thing affecting the integrity of our elections, we hear a lot about foreign influence. Well, I can tell you the greatest foreign influence in our elections are aliens who are getting on the rolls and aliens who are voting.”

Adams, a former Justice Department lawyer, went on to recommend that states pass laws requiring people to show documentary proof of citizenship when they vote — something many eligible voters can’t easily produce.

He also said election officials should do more to maintain accurate voter rolls. The organization Adams runs has sued or otherwise pressured hundreds of local election offices in an effort to get them to more aggressively purge the rolls.

One reason Adams’s comments Thursday are significant is the venue in which he made them: a conference organized by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

The group works by bringing together conservative state legislators with corporate lobbyists and policy advocates. It creates model bills for the state legislators to try to pass in their states. ALEC’s model voter ID bill helped lead to a wave of voter ID laws passed in the early years of this decade.

ALEC had appeared to step away from voting policy in recent years, but Thursday’s panel, and another held Friday on redistricting, suggest it may be re-engaging on the issue. Appearing alongside Adams were two other conservative members of the White House voting commission: Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation, and Christy McCormick, a member of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

The shift in terrain away from voter ID and towards voter registration was already underway before Adams spoke.

The White House voting commission, while barely discussing voter ID, has given signals that it plans to recommend more aggressive voter roll maintenance and proof of citizenship laws. The commission’s leader, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, has been the key champion and enforcer of that state’s proof of citizenship law, which has disenfranchised tens of thousands of would-be voters.

Now, Adams’s instructions to conservative state lawmakers may well help seed new state legislation aimed at restricting registration.

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