Occasionally, America’s system of democracy exhibits its resilience by purging unworthy attempts to alter it.
The demise of President Donald Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity is a shining example.
The commission was cursed from the start because it was founded on Trump’s baseless and widely debunked assertion that “widespread voter fraud” occurred in the 2016 election. He claimed more than 3 million people voted illegally. Not coincidentally, that spread covers Trump’s deficit in the popular vote count. (Hillary Clinton received 2,864,974 more votes, but Trump won the presidency through an Electoral College majority.) Obsessed by that shortfall, Trump created a government commission to investigate his fantastical idea. Its membership was lopsided in favor of his party.
Even though the vast majority of both Republican and Democratic state election officials stood by the integrity of their own states’ voting systems, Trump chose a voter fraud crusader, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, to co-chair the commission with compliant Vice President Mike Pence. The commission met only twice, drew intense resistance from states, and produced no evidence of widespread voter fraud.
The pushback to one particularly invasive commission tactic was inspiring. The panel asked all 50 states to turn over voters’ Social Security numbers, birth dates, political affiliations, voting history and criminal records. Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson, a member of the commission herself, did not release that sensitive information. “Indiana law doesn’t permit the Secretary of State to provide the personal information requested by Secretary Kobach,” Lawson said in a statement released last July.
Lawson is a Republican. So is Delbert Hosemann, the secretary of state in Mississippi. In response to the commission’s request, Hosemann said in an official release from his office, “They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi is a great State to launch from. Mississippi residents should celebrate Independence Day and our State’s right to protect the privacy of our citizens by conducting our own electoral processes.”
Trump views the states’ rebellious response differently. In announcing the disbanding of the commission Wednesday, the president insisted his panel’s effectiveness had been disrupted by the states’ refusal to cooperate. “Despite substantial evidence of voter fraud, many states have refused to provide the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity with basic information relevant to its inquiry,” he said in a statement issued by the White House.
Trump is letting the commission end, but not his preoccupation with its premise. He said the federal Department of Homeland Security will now take up the probe into voter fraud. Let’s hope that reality and our democratic system of checks and balances lets further misguided ventures die, so that actual and meaningful problems can instead receive attention.