When over­sight be­comes over­reach

The fed­eral fraud com­mis­sion in­ad­ver­tently un­der­mines the Elec­toral Col­lege

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By Tara Ross Tara Ross is the au­thor of “The In­dis­pens­able Elec­toral Col­lege: How the Founders’ Plan Saves Our Coun­try from Mob Rule” (Reg­n­ery Gate­way, 2017).

Don­ald Trump was elected with an elec­toral vote vic­tory, de­spite a pop­u­lar vote de­feat. How ironic, then, that he would in­sti­tute a fed­eral fraud com­mis­sion that is help­ing to un­der­mine the prin­ci­ples upon which the Elec­toral Col­lege was founded.

The Pres­i­den­tial Ad­vi­sory Com­mis­sion on Elec­tion In­tegrity is al­ready prov­ing that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment should never be given too much au­thor­ity over pres­i­den­tial elec­tions. Early Thurs­day morn­ing, one mem­ber of the com­mis­sion filed a law­suit, claim­ing that he was be­ing ex­cluded from the com­mis­sion’s work­ings.

“[T]he Com­mis­sion’s su­per­fi­cial bi­par­ti­san­ship has been a fa­cade,” Maine Sec­re­tary of State Matthew Dun­lap claims in his law­suit.

Trump sup­port­ers will de­nounce Mr. Dun­lap as a par­ti­san who is just try­ing to stir up trou­ble, of course. Mean­while, Democrats will be­rate the fraud com­mis­sion for its vague agenda. If ev­ery­thing is above board, why not be more trans­par­ent?

In many ways, it doesn’t mat­ter who is right. Both sides are wrong in an­other, far more im­por­tant area: It was a mis­take to in­volve the fed­eral gov­ern­ment in pres­i­den­tial elec­tions in the first place. The pos­si­bil­ity of abuse is real, whether it oc­curs in this ad­min­is­tra­tion or a fu­ture one. And that’s pre­cisely why the Con­sti­tu­tion gives the fed­eral gov­ern­ment only a lim­ited role in pres­i­den­tial elec­tions. More­over, to the de­gree that na­tional forces are given power, this power is given to Congress, not to the pres­i­dent him­self.

In Amer­ica, the states bear pri­mary re­spon­si­bil­ity for pres­i­den­tial elec­tions. The Con­sti­tu­tion does not pro­vide for fed­eral in­volve­ment in this process out­side of the count­ing of elec­toral votes and the con­gres­sional duty to “de­ter­mine the Time of chus­ing the Elec­tors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes.”

In short, while ev­ery­one wants to stop fraud, that doesn’t give the fed­eral gov­ern­ment con­sti­tu­tional au­thor­ity to act in lieu of the states.

The Con­sti­tu­tion’s de­cen­tral­ized pres­i­den­tial elec­tion process has many ben­e­fits: Im­por­tantly, it pro­tects pres­i­den­tial elec­tions from be­ing politi­cized and con­trolled by an in­cum­bent class of fed­eral of­fi­cials. Con­sider that to­day’s in­no­cently cre­ated fed­eral fraud com­mis­sion could be­come to­mor­row’s newly cre­ated bu­reau­cracy — per­haps the De­part­ment of Elec­tions? The head of that de­part­ment would be a pres­i­den­tial ap­pointee. Would this new sec­re­tary of elec­tions be a fair and neu­tral ar­biter? Or would he tip the scales in fa­vor of his boss, the in­cum­bent?

Amer­ica’s de­cen­tral­ized elec­tion process has other ben­e­fits, too: It al­lows states to ex­press them­selves and to make sure that their voices are not lost in the shuf­fle.

Per­haps a state dis­agrees with some­thing that is hap­pen­ing at the na­tional level and wants to do some­thing dif­fer­ently. In 1892, the state of Wy­oming did ex­actly that: It be­came the first state to let women vote. It didn’t ask other states for per­mis­sion. It sim­ply did what it thought best — as did a hand­ful of other states dur­ing the same elec­tion: They re­fused to list Grover Cleve­land on their bal­lots be­cause of a dis­agree­ment over mone­tary pol­icy.

States can also pro­tect their own in­ter­nal in­ter­ests. In 1876, the state of Colorado didn’t hold a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Its state leg­is­la­ture ap­pointed elec­tors in­stead. Why? Be­cause it was cheaper and eas­ier. Colorado had just joined the union, and it was al­ready hold­ing one set of elec­tions for con­gress­men. A sec­ond elec­tion so soon af­ter the first was sim­ply too hard and ex­pen­sive.

Re­gard­less of what the Founders in­tended, mod­ern Amer­i­cans have in­creas­ingly acted as if na­tional en­ti­ties should have the fi­nal say. The Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee, the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee, the Com­mis­sion on Pres­i­den­tial De­bates, and even the main­stream me­dia have each be­come more and more pow­er­ful. Con­sider that, while the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion es­tab­lished a fraud com­mis­sion, it wasn’t the first to make such a mis­take. Early in 2017, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion des­ig­nated Amer­i­can elec­tion sys­tems as “crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture” that would need more “as­sis­tance” from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

The Founders would surely be sur­prised if they could see how eas­ily mod­ern Amer­i­cans de­fer to na­tional forces. They felt far more loy­alty to their states.

If cen­tral­iz­ing power has be­come a norm, so has dis­sen­sion, dis­cord and dis­sat­is­fac­tion. Per­haps that’s no co­in­ci­dence.

The Con­sti­tu­tion’s de­cen­tral­ized pres­i­den­tial elec­tion process has many ben­e­fits: Im­por­tantly, it pro­tects pres­i­den­tial elec­tions from be­ing politi­cized and con­trolled by an in­cum­bent class of fed­eral of­fi­cials.

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