The chair of President Trump’s Election Integrity Commission has penned a letter to all 50 states requesting their full voter-roll data, including the name, address, date of birth, party affiliation, last four Social Security number digits and voting history back to 2006 of potentially every voter in the state.
In the letter, a copy of which was made public by the Connecticut secretary of state, the commission head Kris Kobach said that “any documents that are submitted to the full Commission will also be made available to the public.”
Four states — California, Virginia, Kentucky and Connecticut — promptly responded to the feds, in essence telling them to butt out. California’s secretary of state put out a written statement:
The President’s commission has requested the personal data and the voting history of every American voter–including Californians. As Secretary of State, it is my duty to ensure the integrity of our elections and to protect the voting rights and privacy of our state’s voters. I will not provide sensitive voter information to a commission that has already inaccurately passed judgment that millions of Californians voted illegally. California’s participation would only serve to legitimize the false and already debunked claims of massive voter fraud made by the President, the Vice President, and Mr. Kobach. … I will continue to defend the right of all eligible voters to cast their ballots free from discrimination, intimidation or unnecessary roadblocks.
Virginia’s Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe likewise declared, “I have no intention of honoring this request. Virginia conducts fair, honest, and democratic elections, and there is no evidence of significant voter fraud in Virginia.” He added, “This entire commission is based on the specious and false notion that there was widespread voter fraud last November. At best this commission was set up as a pretext to validate Donald Trump’s alternative election facts, and at worst is a tool to commit large-scale voter suppression.”
Whether any governor responds to the request — handing over reams of information to the feds on the pretext that their states allowed pandemic fraud to occur — remains to be seen. Nevertheless, in every gubernatorial race in 2017 and 2018, candidates should be challenged to say how they would respond.
You have to recall the right’s stance over decades on election control to appreciate how hypocritical the latest administration gambit is. For decades, the right decried federal intervention in elections, arguing that states had the right to determine their own voting rules. After years of battling in the courts, the right claimed victory when it persuaded the Supreme Court to invalidate the pre-clearance rules under the Voting Rights Act that required a list of nine states with a history of voting discrimination to get federal approval for virtually all changes in election rules (e.g. polling locations, early voting).
In an opinion the right cheered, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. reminded the litigants, “States retain broad autonomy in structuring their governments and pursuing legislative objectives. Indeed, the Constitution provides that all powers not specifically granted to the Federal Government are reserved to the States or citizens. Amdt. 10.” This was precisely the argument a slew of right-leaning groups made in amici curiae briefs in defense of state control of voting procedures. In other words, without powerful evidence voting rights are currently being denied, the feds have no business meddling in an area of state control. Except when the president concocts a fabulist, entirely unsupportable allegation that 3 million-5 million people voted illegally.
There is little doubt that the commission has no factual basis for the president’s argument of massive fraud. (Per The Post: “Academics who have studied the issue for decades say that voter fraud — particularly of the type that strict voter-identification laws championed by Kobach and others are intended to combat — is vanishingly rare and that voter-ID requirements are a burdensome solution to a practically nonexistent problem. A federal judge ruled that some of Kobach’s proposed ID requirements constituted a ‘mass denial of a fundamental constitutional right.’ ”) Nevertheless, it will do its best to drum up data that will no doubt lead to support voter-ID requirements, which have recently and repeatedly been struck down in the courts.
The degree to which the right has trampled on long-held conservative values — the right to privacy, federalism, limits on executive authority — in service of the Trump administration is appalling but no longer surprising. The pretense that the commission is there to investigate massive fraud crumbles when one examines its activities. The worst fears of voting rights activists has come to pass; this is now a dragnet — a witch hunt, as the president likes to call inquests — that seeks to intimidate and curtail free access to voting. The governors should resist it at all costs. Kudos go to those who already have.