Texans can tell you voter fraud doesn’t exist

Donald Trump started his presidency with lies. His insecurities and ego have led to lying about the crowd size at inauguration, and now the new president and his staff insist that millions of undocumented immigrants voted illegally, costing him the popular vote.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Just ask Trump’s colleagues in Texas.

As head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, I led the charge against Texas’s discriminatory voter ID law in 2012. Texas Republicans rammed the law through by claiming they needed to stop noncitizen voting and impersonation fraud. But when it came time to prove their case in court? The state’s own witness admitted that out of more than 46 million votes cast in the past ten years, they hadn’t found a single case of unlawful noncitizen voting and had presented a grand total of two convictions for impersonation fraud.

That’s a rate of 0.000004%.

Now Trump wants to waste taxpayer dollars and use the Justice Department for an ego-driven witch-hunt that will find no proof of widespread voter fraud. But Trump’s wild accusations are not going to stop anytime soon, and that’s why we must call his actions what they are: blatant lies and attempts to disenfranchise voters.

Texans know this playbook. That’s why we must prepare for another assault on our democracy. Voter suppression is the civil rights battle of our lifetime. And if we want to win, we need the Democratic Party to be front and center in this fight.

That’s one of the reasons I’m running to be the next Democratic National Committee chair. I’ve spent my career protecting voting rights in Texas and across the country, and I want to lead the DNC as we take on bullies like Donald Trump.

I know the next four years will be an uphill battle, but it’s a battle I’m prepared to wage. In 2009, I took over a civil rights division that had been decimated and demoralized by the George W. Bush administration. We brought it roaring back to life, tackling cases of voter suppression and discriminatory gerrymandering in Texas and other states.

That’s what we’ve got to do at the DNC. And we can learn a lot from Texas Democrats.

Texas Democrats understand better than anyone that winning isn’t a matter of changing our values. Texas families want higher wages, not higher walls; better health care and retirement security, not a deportation force or a ban on Muslims.

Democrats are fighting for what’s right. But if we want to win those fights, we need a DNC that helps state parties organize, communicate, and protect the right to vote in every zip code.

Texas Democrats know this. In last November’s election, you kept us within single digits of the Republicans, won Harris County by more than 150,000 votes, flipped four state House seats, and elected the state’s first black female sheriff. And you did all of this with scant support from Washington.

Just imagine what we can achieve here if we have a DNC that finally fights alongside you and takes aggressive action against voter suppression.

That’s why I want to build a robust, fully-staffed voter empowerment office that works year-round with states to protect the right to vote and to advance ballot access. This office would create a regional structure with one person dedicated to every state, working with election administrators and state party members to proactively fight unjust voting laws. We would also work with state parties to create state-specific strategies for voter empowerment.

This isn’t the first time we’ve had to fight bullies to ensure the right to vote. And with a Trump Justice Department, I’m positive it won’t be the last.

As my hero Rep. John Lewis often says, the right to vote is precious. It’s the foundation of our democracy. But as President Obama noted in his farewell address, this right is not self-executing. We must actively fight for it — here in Texas and across the country. And if I’m your next chair, the Democratic Party will lead that fight once more.

Tom Perez

Former U.S. secretary of labor