It seems like we’ve been on this crazy roller coaster forever, but Donald Trump has actually been President for less than six months. Between Twitter tirades and the constant trench warfare between the Trump administration and the mainstream media, it feels like the former real estate tycoon has been marauding around Washington for ages. Another thing that makes it feel like we’ve been here forever is the fact that Donald Trump won’t let things go. Before North Korea swept clean the news cycle, Trump was making headlines for returning to the stomping grounds of one of his first eyebrow-raising scandals: Blaming his popular vote defeat on millions of fraudulent votes.
Hillary Clinton, despite losing the Electoral College, won the popular vote by 2.9 million ballots, a fact which apparently still stings the tough-talking billionaire. Unable to accept the fact that Clinton trumped him among the common citizens, or that his inauguration crowd was smaller than Obama’s, Trump took to…lying. Nothing fancy, just sheer falsehoods. It has made the term “alternative facts” part of the American vernacular.
Now, in a puzzling strategy that seems intended to make his lies true through sheer force of will, Donald Trump has created the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. Intended to “study” possible “vulnerabilities” in America’s national elections that would allow for “improper voter registration” and “fraudulent voting,” the Commission seems solely created to drum up evidence that Hillary Clinton received lots of fraudulent votes in 2016… and that Donald Trump really won the popular vote.
Studies have revealed very little fraudulent voting in the United States, and even fellow Republicans have tried to distance themselves from Trump’s ludicrous assertion that three million fraudulent ballots got cast on November 8, 2016. But, even as Trump discounts growing evidence that the Russian government tried to tinker in the 2016 election, he remains adamant that the popular vote was stolen from him.
Busy with everything else, America seems content to let Trump stew in his popular vote delusion… but he may have even broken Republicans’ patience by requesting private voter information from all fifty states. His voting commission is requesting the names, addresses, dates of birth, partisan affiliations, veteran status, felony conviction history, and last four Social Security digits of every voter in the United States. The only problem? Most of this information is against the law for states to provide.
Fortunately, almost all states have pushed back against the unorthodox request and asserted that the Trump administration is only entitled to the publicly-available information that can be accessed by anyone. Critics, including many state-level Republicans, have loudly criticized the White House’s ham-handed attempt to grab a tremendous amount of private voter information. In response to the states’ strong refusal to simply hand over the data, Trump has asked what the states are trying to hide.
Most informed citizens understand that the states are not trying to hide anything – they are simply following the U.S. Constitution. Voter eligibility, aside from the specific elements stated in the Constitution and its amendments, is determined by the states. The federal government has no right to access states’ voter lists. Obviously, any attempt by the federal government to create a national voting list, especially with the hefty amount of detail that Trump wants, could be construed as an attempt to rig future elections.
By requesting partisan affiliations of all American voters, is Donald Trump trying to unethically help the Republican Party, and thus his own re-election, in 2020? By requesting the felony conviction status of every voter, is Trump trying to plant the seeds of future state laws that bar convicted felons from voting? With Republicans controlling the White House, House of Representatives, and U.S. Senate, it is almost guaranteed that any data collected by the President’s voting commission will be used to assist the GOP and disadvantage the Dems.
Regardless of the intended purpose of this voter data, nothing justifies the cost of its collection. Research has already ruled out voter fraud as a meaningful issue in the United States, with “ballot stuffing” and stolen elections having disappeared as modern technology arose. For so-called fiscal conservatives to be throwing millions of taxpayer dollars at chasing election fraud ghosts is insulting.
If Donald Trump truly wanted to improve America’s elections, he should have created a panel dedicated to increasing voter registration and ensuring that voting machines cannot be hacked or otherwise manipulated. Or, perhaps, the President could focus on reducing the anti-democratic effects of gerrymandering. For a politician who routinely thumps his chest and loudly praises freedom and liberty, it sure is strange that the only way Trump can think to improve America’s democracy is to analyze all voters’ private data.
The GOP’s loudly-proclaimed love of freedom and liberty should result in a declaration that voters’ private information should remain that way. And conservatives, who highly value states’ rights, should be first and loudest to tell the White House to butt out of state election rolls. Allowing Trump’s voting commission to intrude in our private lives makes a mockery of American conservatism.