The new commission investigating the possibility of improper voting in United States elections is being met with pushback around the country, including from the co-founder of one of the world’s most famous food brands.
Ben Cohen, the co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s, is no longer involved with the operations of the ice cream company that bears his name.
In recent years, Cohen has become increasingly active in a host of political causes, including supporting the presidential run of his longtime friend from Burlington, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont.
Cohen’s “Stamp Stampede” has politically tuned-in Americans across the country inking messages on paper currency with rubber stamps. The theory is, as consumers spread the cash, slogans stamped on them spread, too.
“This is a grassroots protest,” Cohen said Monday in his office in Burlington, as he stamped cash with his latest slogan, “Stop the Attack on Voting Rights.”
“The big problem in the country is that not enough people are voting,” Cohen told necn. “We need to make it easier for people to vote.”
Cohen’s new push comes as the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, created through an order from President Donald Trump, looks into whether our election systems are prone to fraud, such as double-voting or improper voter registrations.
Experts have repeatedly said problems like that are extremely rare.
Earlier this year, President Trump suggested the popular vote margin between himself and Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election would have been narrower were it not for improper voting.
President Trump lost the popular vote, according to certified vote totals, but won the presidency through the Electoral College.
Cohen blasted the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity as part of a larger effort by some on the political right to deny Americans access to polling locations.
“It’s an effort to get people not to vote; to target particular populations — low-income people, black people, disabled people — in an effort to put up roadblocks between them and the polls,” Cohen alleged.
Secretary of State Jim Condos, D-Vermont, said he recently received a second request from the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity for voter data from his state.
Condos said he does not plan to comply, citing privacy concerns.
“It’s really been a witch hunt,” Condos said, describing the commission’s requests to the states for election data.
Condos said he believes a much bigger worry than voting fraud is voter suppression, especially of minority communities.
“The real voter fraud — the true voter fraud that exists — is denying any eligible American the right to cast a ballot,” Condos said.
However, around the country, many people believe there are legitimate concerns about the nation’s voting processes that merit investigation.
Among them is Rob Roper of Vermont’s Ethan Allen Institute, which describes itself as a free-market think tank.
“I’d like to see the secretary of state participate [in the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity’s work],” Roper said of Jim Condos.
For example, Roper questioned how voting officials in individual communities can know for sure if an absentee ballot is really being filled out by the person who asked for it, or by someone who was urging them to vote a certain way.
“As we change the way we vote, we need to make sure the safeguards of ‘one person, one vote’ and ‘secret ballot’ remain intact,” Roper said.
Other ways voting is evolving, which safeguards need to evolve to match, Roper indicated, would include same-day registration and early voting in many states.
As for Ben Cohen, he encouraging more Americans to speak up about voting rights, saying democracy depends on it.
The other major effort of the Stamp Stampede is to call attention to the impact big money has on politics, Cohen said.