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.