WASHINGTON – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo was on point when he rebuked President Trump’s fishing expedition for seeking detailed information on 50 states’ voting records. Cuomo said it is nothing more than an effort to validate the president’s lurid claim that millions voted illegally in last year’s presidential election.
Trump has repeatedly claimed that the alleged 3 million to 5 million votes illegally cast for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, particularly in New York and California, were what deprived him of a popular majority, beyond his Electoral College majority last fall.
No responsible election official, no exit poll comes close to confirming such a claim. It should have been shredded like last year’s campaign slingers.
According to Slate.com, a study by the Brennan Center found that, at most, there were 30 cases of non-citizens voting in the last presidential election. But the “myth,” as the governor called it, is too rich in sick possibilities for what the president’s supporters see as the president’s political base to let go of.
The claim is calculated to strengthen the Trump base’s xenophobic urges, its prejudices and its hates. It also provides fodder for extremists’ attempts to repeal the 1993 “motor voter” law, the National Voter Registration Act. This permits states to offer voter registration to eligible citizens when they show up for a driver’s license application.
Trump’s voter commission was not created by an act of Congress, or a resolution of either house. Legally, an executive order signed by the president alone gave this “commission” life. It has the vapors of Steve Bannon, the former Breitbart News executive, the president’s alt-right adviser on political affairs, all over it.
But it has the strong support of the Kansas secretary of state, Kris Kobach, who has the reputation of using every tool at his disposal to restrict minority voting rights in his state. Trump made Kobach the commission’s vice chairman, and Vice President Pence is the titular chairman.
It was Kobach who sent out the demands to the 50 states for voters’ names, birth dates, addresses, voting and military histories (if any) and the last four digits of their Social Security numbers.
According to TheNation.com, 48 of the 50 states have declined to provide all of the information requested. Like Cuomo’s New York, 20 states in all refused to provide any data.
No matter how flimsy its origins, or discredited its vice chairman, the so-called Advisory Commission on Election Integrity offers a thick garden of weeds with which Trump hard-liners can distort the true results of the 2016 election.
Hate radio and archconservative bloggers are already demanding to know what Cuomo, and Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who called the commission’s quest for data “silly,” are trying to hide. Shades of Sen. Joe McCarthy.
We know that it will make Kobach the godfather of all sorts of bogus lawsuits in coming months.
But that’s not the greatest danger. Some of the damage has already been done by Trump & Co. It is this: No matter how discredited his, or his friends’ claims are, or turn out to be, public trust in our institutions has already been affected by Trump’s unapologetic assaults on the judiciary and his wild attacks on the free press. Some of these fantastic charges are going to stick to the wall.
The failure of stakeholders of all political stripes to vigorously stand up to Trump like Cuomo did will only encourage Trumpites to tug harder at the roots of our democracy.