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Possible 2020 contender Kander says N.H. a ‘poster child’ in battle over voting rights

  • Jason Kander at a phone bank in Manchester on Tuesday night. Paul Steinhauser—



For the Monitor
Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Progressive voting rights activist and potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Jason Kander says New Hampshire has become the symbol of the ever-evolving fight over attempts to tighten state voter eligibility laws.

“It’s certainly the poster child for this new and I would say deviously creative form of voter suppression that is targeted directly at younger people,” said the former Missouri secretary of state and founder of the voting rights group Let America Vote.

Kander made his comments Tuesday in an interview with the Monitor and WKXL radio in Concord before taking part in an evening phone bank opposing a new state law that tightens the state’s voter eligibility rules and a current bill that would require those who vote in New Hampshire be residents.

“I’m somebody who was willing to put their life on the line for the rights and the freedoms that our nation has to offer,” said Kander, a U.S. Army veteran who served in the war in Afghanistan.

“I volunteered for the Army. I volunteered to go to Afghanistan. And the idea that after coming home many years later that the president of the United States and state legislators and some governors around the country would try to take those rights away, I’m just not okay with that. And that’s a big part of what motivates me here,” he added.

Kander said the mission of Let America Vote is to create “political consequences” for politicians who make it harder to vote.

“Basically, if you’re trying to making it harder for folks to vote, we’re interested in making it a lot harder for you to get re-elected. And we’ve had some success with that already, both here in New Hampshire and in Virginia,” Kander said.

Last year Kander and his group worked to help Joyce Craig, a Democratic-leaning candidate, win the nonpartisan mayoral election in Manchester. They also got involved in some State House special elections. The group is now setting up offices in New Hampshire and four other states.

Besides the phone bank, Kander hosted a reception for state lawmakers and 2018 candidates and gave a preview of Let America Vote’s efforts in New Hampshire. Part of that mission will be to try to defeat GOP Gov. Chris Sununu and State House Republicans who support tightening the state’s voting laws.

Kander criticized Senate Bill 3, which Sununu signed into law last year, as a measure intended “to intimidate young people, mostly college students, out of voting.”

The law, which, tightens the requirements for registering to vote, is currently facing a legal court challenge.

And he described House Bill 372, a bill that would allow only residents of the state to vote or run for public office, as “basically a poll tax.”

State Republicans disagree with such descriptions and say the measures are needed to make the state’s voting laws more uniform. Some conservatives also point to what they say is voter fraud in New Hampshire.

But Kander said that “the only reason that Republicans in this state and around the country are interested in making the voting process harder is because they’re interested in having fewer people vote. And that’s a really bad reason to do that.”

He argued that Republicans “do this because it helps them win elections.”

“The moment that Republican politicians look at voter suppression as an option that can cost them an election instead of one that will help them win an election, they’ll stop doing it,” he said.

Kander narrowly lost the 2016 U.S. Senate race in Missouri to Republican incumbent Roy Blunt, outperforming Hillary Clinton in the state by 15 percentage points. Nowadays, Kander is mentioned as a possible 2020 White House contender.

And his eighth trip to the first-in-the-nation primary state over the past year only fuels such speculation.

“Obviously, people keep asking me about running, and that makes me think about it,” Kander told the Monitor.

He said “I’ll consider my options” after the 2018 elections.

But he deflected any other discussion about a possible presidential run, saying “anybody who wants to talk about 2020, we all probably better remember that we got a whole bunch of important work to do in 2018 and that’s why all my focus is there.”