Since before the Civil War, “states’ rights” has been a rallying cry for politicians – usually from southern states – bent on denying constitutional rights to African- and Hispanic-Americans, women and other victims of discriminatory state laws.
But in the past week, as the Trump administration has sought an array of personal information about voters from state government databases, a bipartisan and nationwide assortment of state officials has undertaken a welcome and very constitutional defense of states’ rights to resist federal overreach.
CNN reports today that election officials in 44 states have now rejected the administration’s request for the last four digits of every voter’s Social Security number, the number of elections they’ve voted in since 2006, their military records, and information about whether they’ve ever been registered in another state, among other data.
The federal request came in a letter signed by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the vice chair of President Trump’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The panel, headed by Vice President Pence, was created in the wake of Trump’s claims – unsupported by evidence – that up to 5 million votes were illegally cast in last year’s election.
The resisting states are led by Democrats and Republicans alike. "My reply would be: They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico, and Mississippi is a great state to launch from," Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, a Republican, said Friday. "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 fired back over the weekend via Twitter. "Numerous states are refusing to give information to the very distinguished VOTER FRAUD PANEL. What are they trying to hide?" he tweeted.
The presidential response was eyebrow-raising, to put it mildly, considering that Trump has broken a presidential tradition in place for half a century by refusing to release his federal income tax returns.
Common Cause and other voting rights advocates are warning that the election commission is bent on attacking an essentially non-existent problem, voter fraud, and is actually a vehicle to justify and promote voter suppression.They note that Kobach has a long record of championing restrictive voter identification requirements and other efforts to limit voting rights.
“We are very concerned that the Pence-Kobach commission, premised on the lie of rampant illegal voting, is nothing more than a partisan attempt to manipulate our voting processes that will make it harder for eligible Americans to vote,” Common Cause President Karen Hobert Flynn said just before the Independence Day holiday. We are pleased that so many election officials have already spoken out with their concerns about the requests they received this week.”
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: Voting and Elections