My favorite Missouri politician, former Secretary of State Jason Kander, has begun another crusade, one that merits attention and support.
Kander, just thirty-five years of age, is an Iraq War veteran who was at one time the youngest statewide office holder in the nation. As he was completing his term as our Secretary of State, Jason chose to try and advance himself in Missouri politics by challenging incumbent Republican Senator Roy Blunt. And while Blunt's tenacious hold on that senate seat seemed insurmountable, young Democrat Kander came within a hair's breadth of knocking the old toad off of his stool. Jason Kander lost the statewide election to Blunt by just 2.8 percentage points at the same time Clinton lost the show-me state to Trump by 18.5 percentage points.
Kander gave Ol' Roy the biggest scare of his political life.
Because of Jason's strong support in Missouri, particularly among young Missourians, it should not surprise anyone that he has chosen to remain active and in the public view during his current hiatus from elected office. Last month it was rumored that Kander would jump into the crowded race to become chair of the Democratic National Committee, but for reasons unknown to individuals of my pay grade, he chose not to trudge that path.
Yesterday the former Senate candidate (and star of a television commercial where he, in essence, flipped a middle finger to the Blunt-supporting NRA by assembling a military assault rifle while blindfolded) announced plans for a new political venture, one intended to increase Americans' access to the polls. The organization that Jason Kander is founding is called "Let America Vote," and its purpose is exactly what its title implies.
In the launch of this new effort to curb voter suppression, Kander had this to say:
"This means a lot to me. As Secretary of State in Missouri, making sure eligible voters had access to the polls was a huge part of my job. This week, I started Let America Vote to continue that work across the country.
"Voting is the fundamental right of every American. GOP tactics like photo voter ID laws, slashing voting hours, or questionable purges of voter rolls have nothing to do with protecting elections -- they're meant to keep certain people from voting because those people rarely vote Republican.
"I joined the Army to protect this nation. i did it because I truly believe that our country, our democracy, is a beacon of hope where everyone is equal and everyone's voice is valued. Voting is one of the fundamental rights that I put my life on the line for, that my fellow soldiers fought and died for. I have a stake in this democracy -- and I intend to do everything I can to make sure every eligible American can exercise their right to cast a ballot."
The advocate for unfettered democracy then went on to ask recipients of his email announcing the new effort to respond with their own take on what voting rights means to them. I did that and elaborated by noting that as an older white male I had never had any personal difficulties in voting. I shared my belief that voter registration should be universal and that access to the ballot needs to be as simple as possible.
Then I went on to share my best voting experience with Kander. Surprisingly, that was in the state of Arizona. Registration was completed at the DMV when I showed up the first time to register my vehicle, and ballots were mailed to me several weeks ahead of each election - along with a postage-paid return envelope. I voted in the comfort of my own home and mailed my ballot back to the election officials. Or, if I wanted the excitement of visiting the polling place, I could take my ballot there and cast it on election day. By having the ballot arrive by mail before each election, I never missed getting to vote - and I never forgot about any election. It was a great system.
America's strength is in the numbers of people who get to the polls and vote - and keeping people away is a weakness. I am glad that Jason Kander has chosen to fight voter suppression in America because he is just the person who can spotlight and defeat that insidious old evil.
For more information on this extraordinary young man and his ambitious new effort, please check in at letamericavote.org.