On November 8, 2016, rising star of the Democratic Party Jason Kander lost the Missouri Senate race to incumbent Republican Roy Blunt by just 2.8 points. This loss was significant for Democrats nationwide because they were counting on the 33-year-old veteran to help them win back the Senate, which they failed to do despite gaining two seats. Just six days before the election, POLITICO wrote of the former Missouri Secretary of State:
Win or lose on Election Day, Missouri operatives of both parties speculate, Kander has won: He’s drawn widespread attention and will find another, successful opportunity to run for federal office soon, or perhaps a post in a Clinton administration. If he wins, a role as one of the Democratic Party’s young stars seems assured.
Obviously, things did not go very well for Clinton or Kander. But while Hillary receded into the woods, Kander has refused to abandon the political scene.
On February 7, Kander launched Let America Vote, “an organization dedicated to winning the public debate over voter suppression in the United States.”
This fight is particularly personal to Kander given that the Missouri Republicans successfully passed a voter identification bill in September 2016, going so far as to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto. Kander’s office estimated that this would disenfranchise about 200,000 eligible Missouri voters.
Voter identification laws, which have begun to face scrutiny in lower courts, are important to Republicans because voting restrictions suppress the vote of minorities, who overwhelmingly support Democrats. In North Carolina, a 4th Circuit judge wrote that the GOP’s voter ID requirements “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.” Similarly, in Wisconsin, United States District Judge James D. Peterson wrote that the state’s voter ID practices “disenfranchised a number of citizens who are unquestionably qualified to vote, and these disenfranchised citizens are overwhelmingly African American and Latin[x].”
The problem, however, is not limited to Republican legislators. The GOP has successfully convinced many voters that voter fraud is a real problem that necessities these discriminatory laws. An August Gallup poll found that 80% of Americans support voter ID laws, with even a 63% majority of Democrats believing it’s reasonable to force voters to provide photo identification before casting their ballot. While this myth has been debunked time and time again, the Republican Party, including Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, need it to continue to suppress minority voters.
Jason Kander aims to help rectify this issue “by exposing the real motivations of those who favor voter suppression laws.”
On January 4, Kander addressed the Missouri House to urge Republicans not to pass measures further restricting access to the ballot. “I know some folks here and across the state try to pretend other elections issues would be solved by a new photo ID requirement, but that’s just not true,” he said. “You can protect the integrity of elections without stopping anyone from voting.”
Kander also told the Missouri GOP that he’ll “see [them] in court” if they choose to pursue voter suppression measures.
On March 16, Let America Vote called for Georgia election officials “to reverse plans that would eliminate or limit early voting locations in the Georgia 6th Congressional District special election to replace Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Tom Price.”
Early voting, which Gallup found to be supported by 80% of Americans, is most likely to be used by poor and minority voters – who, you guessed it, overwhelmingly vote for Democrats – making it a prime target for cuts by the GOP.
With Republicans in control at federal and state levels, and with Donald Trump able to appoint over 10% of the federal judiciary, there is ample reason for concern about the future of voting rights. Nonetheless, Jason Kander is confident that democracy will win out eventually, and his organization is ready for the fight.
“Whether it’s extreme identification requirements, questionable purges of voter rolls, voter intimidation, new and extreme voter registration processes, or anything else that makes it harder for eligible voters to vote, Let America Vote will be there to highlight these attacks and help lead the political fight against them.”
Jordan is a political writer, activist, cinephile, proud queer woman of color, and Mad Max: Fury Road fanatic. She’s cautiously optimistic about the future of humanity.