(CNN)Despite his own reservations about Russian meddling in the 2016 election, President Donald Trump defied critics and pressed Russian President Vladimir Putin on the issue during their private meeting in Germany. Not surprisingly, Putin denied any meddling. Their 2-hour meeting may have ended, but the Russia probe is far from over.
As with all things political, election irregularities are viewed through a number of partisan lenses: Democrats point to voter suppression, Republicans claim voter fraud, and many focus on Russian interference in our election process. The reality is, none of these are mutually exclusive. The only way to put all those fears to rest is to fully investigate the 2016 election and work to restore integrity to the process and encourage voter participation.
The FBI, CIA and National Security Agency have concluded Russia meddled in the 2016 election, and the panel’s review of voting networks across the country would provide valuable insight on outside interference.
Having worked as Deputy Secretary of State in Arkansas, I know the awesome responsibility shared by each state’s designated chief election official, and overseeing elections according to law. Their role is to ensure the integrity of the voting process.
The Election Commission’s initial step in studying the registration and voting processes was to seek data from Secretaries of State across the country. Vice Chairman and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, requested that each state provide “publicly available voter roll data” as allowed under each state’s laws. While protecting state-level authority in our federalist system is important, assisting federal authorities in their efforts to bring about free and fair elections is paramount.
Commission Chair Vice President Mike Pence says the goal is to preserve the principle of one person, one vote; a clean, verifiable voter database is a critical part of that process.
As of now, the Vice President’s office reports that 36 states are providing the data or reviewing what data they can provide. The other 14 states, mostly led by Democratic election officials, are refusing to comply with the request, citing privacy concerns. The problem with that is, the requested information is available to the public already. Anyone, at virtually anytime, can obtain this data.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez calls it a “Trump propaganda factory.” He encouraged election officials not to provide the information that would help in the effort to restore election integrity. The obvious question is: What do Democrats have to hide?
It could be the news that a Virginia student pleaded guilty last week to registering dead people for Democrats. Maybe it’s the story of 12 people in Indiana connected with a Democratic group last month charged with submitting falsified voter registration applications.
Democrats say the commission is a large-scale effort aimed at voter suppression. I don’t buy that; no one deprives an American citizen of the right to vote except the person himself.
Americans are blessed with the freedom to vote. As Thomas Paine said: “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it.” That goes for identifying election problems and correcting them.
Choosing not to help uncover irregularities is not a stand on principle or a form of rebellion; it’s surrender. Surrendering is more of the same. If we don’t learn from history, we’re doomed to repeat it. It’s time to vote like your right to vote depends on it.