Rep. Sewell helps lead Democratic election commission
WASHINGTON — Alabama Rep. Terri Sewell will serve as vice chair of a new Democratic “watchdog” panel set up to counter President Donald Trump’s new election fraud commission.
The Democratic National Committee announced plans last Thursday to create a commission to “discredit” Trump’s presidential advisory group.
“I don’t think that we can trust this administration when it comes to protecting voting rights or for getting the facts right when it comes to incidences of voter fraud,” Sewell said Tuesday. “The point of this commission is really to serve as a check to president Trump’s (advisory group). It is our way of making sure that the real facts get out when it comes to issues of voting. We know that voter suppression occurs way more than voter fraud.”
Earlier this month, Trump signed an executive order setting up a commission to study his allegations of voter fraud in the 2016 presidential election. Trump has claimed there were 3 million to 5 million fraudulent votes.
Sewell, voting rights groups and state election officials have disputed claims of massive voter fraud.
The White House has said it’s important to look into "vulnerabilities" in election systems, including voter fraud. Vice President Mike Pence is chairman of Trump’s bipartisan “Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity." Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has pushed for tighter election laws, will be the commission's vice chair.
Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, called Trump’s commission a “sham.”
“Our commission will be ready to counter every move that the Trump administration makes to silence eligible voters,” he said in a statement. “We simply cannot trust Trump, Jeff Sessions, or anyone in this administration to protect the integrity of our democracy.”
Sessions, a former Republican Alabama senator, is the U.S. attorney general.
Jason Kander, a former Missouri secretary of state, will serve as chairman of the DNC’s “Commission on Protecting American Democracy from the Trump Administration.”
The 13-member Democratic commission also includes other members of Congress: New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and Reps. Gwen Moore of Wisconsin and Joaquin Castro of Texas.
Louisiana state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, chairwoman of the state's Democratic Party, is also another commissioner from the South. The South has been at the heart of battles over voting rights issues.
Sewell, who is also vice chair of the Congressional Voting Rights Caucus, said the DNC's "watch dog'' group will document voter suppression efforts and offer suggestions for how to improve voter access to the polls.
The commission will also promote voting rights legislation, including one to restore a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Sewell said.
The U.S. Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder threw out a provision of the VRA that determined which states and other jurisdictions with a history of voter discrimination had to obtain "pre-clearance" from federal officials before making any election changes. Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi were among those states.
Sewell said she also plans to reintroduce her own bill, “The Voting Rights Advancement Act,’’ next month right before the fourth anniversary of that Supreme Court decision. Her bill would resurrect and update the formula that had been used to determine which cities and states were barred from making election-related changes without federal approval.
Her legislation, which did not move out of the House, had 179 cosponsors, all Democrats.
“My hope is that by raising the awareness of the real issues around voting rights in America that this commission will provide a spotlight for really understanding the various modern-day barriers to voting that exist now,” Sewell said.