Voter fraud isn't the problem — voter suppression is. Meet the man who wants to solve it.

After four years as a member of Missouri's House of Representatives and another four as its secretary of state, Jason Kander took a chance and ran for the U.S. Senate in 2016.

While the fresh-faced 35-year-old would ultimately come up short in his bid to unseat incumbent Sen. Roy Blunt in the 2016 election, the race was a whole lot closer than many expected. A Democrat in a traditionally red state, Kander came within just 3 points of Blunt. For comparison, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton lost the state by 19 points.

Though unsuccessful, the campaign helped Kander reach a whole new audience when one of his ads — in which he, a former Army captain and Afghanistan veteran, assembled a rifle while blindfolded — went viral. In defeat, Kander's star only continued to rise.


Photo by Whitney Curtis/Getty Images.

Within days of the election, political insiders began speculating what Kander's next move could be, with some even floating him as a possible presidential candidate in 2020.

But that's not in the cards for him — at least not yet.

In his final days as Missouri's secretary of state, Kander delivered an impassioned plea to the state's lawmakers, asking them to show restraint when it comes to implementing new laws that would suppress voter turnout.

"I'm going to be brief today because I recognize that most of you and your families didn't come here today to listen to me," he said. "And frankly, most of you are not going to like what it is I have to say."

What followed was a powerful case against disenfranchising eligible voters in the name of stopping voter-impersonation fraud, a cause close to his heart that would follow him to his next endeavor.

"We have actually already had this debate in America," said Kander. "American heroes faced down batons and dogs and firehoses to march across a bridge in Selma."

Fresh out of office, on Feb. 7, Kander announced the launch of Let America Vote, a national organization dedicated to fighting voter suppression.

Though those who support voting restrictions such as voter ID laws claim their purpose is to prevent voter fraud, in effect, those laws only make it harder for eligible voters to cast a ballot.

The problem with restrictive voter ID measures goes far beyond Missouri, and Kander knows this. That's why the former chief election official is making it his mission to fight the wave of ongoing voter suppression efforts happening now in at least 20 states. Combine that with the fact that President Trump has made repeated claims that there were more than 3 million ballots illegally cast in the 2016 election (even though the data shows that to be untrue), and it's pretty clear that someone needs to step up to defend the right to vote.

Kander wants to be that someone.

But let's start with the basics. Why are voter ID laws a bad idea?

For one, the type of fraud that these laws prevent is extremely rare. On the flip side, the number of people disenfranchised by these laws remains high.

"The only kind of fraud that a photo ID law can even claim to prevent is voter-impersonation fraud," Kander tells Upworthy. "There's never been a reported case of voter-impersonation fraud in Missouri, and it's so rare nationally that Americans are more likely to be struck by lightning than they are to commit voter-impersonation fraud."

In Missouri, Kander points out, there were over 200,000 "eligible, registered, legal voters" who didn't have the specific type of ID that many lawmakers have proposed making a requirement to vote.

It's those kinds of requirements that he says make it clear that voter ID laws are "a policy that is meant to be a solution to an imaginary problem of voter-impersonation fraud — or at least a very, very uncommon problem of voter-impersonation fraud."

Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images.

The people most likely to be negatively affected by voter ID restrictions are people of color, low-income individuals, and students.

Voter ID laws are often coupled with restrictions on things like early voting, automatic voter registration, and same-day registration.

A voter ID law "is a Republican, partisan solution to the problem that certain people are very unlikely to vote for Republicans," Kander says.

He's not wrong, either. Political scientists at University of California, San Diego found that when strict voter ID laws are in place, Democratic turnout drops by an estimated 7.7 percentage points; turnout for Republicans declines by just 4.6 points. When you look at the effect that has on a national scale, it amounts to millions of additional eligible voters turned away on Election Day.

How much potential voter-impersonation fraud does this cut down on? According to a study done by Justin Levitt of Loyola Law School Los Angeles, just 31 cases out of 1 billion votes. Yep, billion. With a B.

The truth is, no matter what your political views are, we should all be able to agree that free and fair elections in which we can all participate are a necessary part of a functioning democracy.

Anything less is, frankly, undemocratic.

"Republican politicians are working very hard to try and have the voter-suppression campaign exist in the mind of Americans in a voter fraud frame of reference, but once you can point out to voters that it actually exists in a partisan wrangling and partisan politics frame of reference, that is when they realize that the true motivations have been exposed, and they're no longer interested in supporting," Kander adds. "They no longer consider it to be anything other than un-American."

Kander backstage during an election night event on Nov. 8, 2016, in Kansas City, Missouri. Photo by Whitney Curtis/Getty Images.

In the past, we could count on the courts to shoot down some of the more egregious attempts at voter suppression. But given the 2013 Supreme Court decision to cut down key elements of the Voting Rights Act, the confirmation of Jeff Sessions as U.S. attorney general, and the president's own belief that there's widespread voter fraud, it's more important than ever for everyday people to get involved in reshaping the narrative around these laws.

Today, it may be the party you support that benefits most from these laws. But what about a year from now? 10 years from now? A generation from now? What we do now determines what kind of country we aspire to be, and hopefully it's one where we can agree that regardless of one's political views, we all have a right to stand up and be counted.

Kander addresses the Missouri legislature on Jan. 4. GIF from Missourians for Kander/YouTube.

For more information and to get involved, sign up on Let America Vote's website.

The airline industry was one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, as global and domestic travel came to a screeching halt last spring. When the pandemic was officially declared in March of 2020, no one knew what to expect or how long the timeline of lockdowns and life changes would last.

Two weeks after the declaration, Delta pilot Chris Dennis flew one of the airline's planes to Victorville, CA for storage. He shared photos on Facebook that day of empty planes neatly lined up, saying it was a day he would remember for the rest of his life.

"Chilling, apocalyptic, surreal...all words that still don't fit what is happening in the world," he wrote. "Each one of these aircraft represents hundreds of jobs, if not more."

He added:

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The airline industry was one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, as global and domestic travel came to a screeching halt last spring. When the pandemic was officially declared in March of 2020, no one knew what to expect or how long the timeline of lockdowns and life changes would last.

Two weeks after the declaration, Delta pilot Chris Dennis flew one of the airline's planes to Victorville, CA for storage. He shared photos on Facebook that day of empty planes neatly lined up, saying it was a day he would remember for the rest of his life.

"Chilling, apocalyptic, surreal...all words that still don't fit what is happening in the world," he wrote. "Each one of these aircraft represents hundreds of jobs, if not more."

He added:

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True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."