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Virginia voters don’t need Trump prying into their data

posted July 10th, 2017

Ramadan: Virginia voters don’t need Trump prying into their data

David Ramadan is a former Republican member of the Virginia House of Delegates (2012-2016) from Loudoun County and is now an Adjunct Professor at George Mason University. He can be reached via email: info@davidramadan.com

If you want to work people into an immediate lather, there are few quicker ways to make suds than bringing up the issue of voter fraud and electoral shenanigans. The most obvious and recent example is the ongoing debate over Russian interference in the 2016 election –which unfortunately has turned into a partisan war.
But allegations of voter fraud are nothing if not a bi-partisan affair. President Trump has repeatedly maintained that more than 5 million voted illegally in 2016 without producing a shred of evidence. Still, his ardent supporters cling to this claim like a talisman of truth.

Faith in America’s voting system is far too important to be left to ideological group-think unsupported by fact. Obviously elections are not perfect, even in Virginia. As a former legislator and a former member of the House Privileges and Elections Committee, I know first-hand that incidents of voter fraud are few and far between, with most ending in prosecution.

Unfortunately, Trump is seeking to throw another log onto the flickering flame of fake voter fraud claims by issuing an Executive Order to review the voter rolls of every state. Currently 27 states are pushing back against this charade. They’re standing firm that the federal government has no place supervising how states manage their voter rolls. Virginia lawmakers should follow suit.

The Constitution in its wisdom left control of how states conduct elections to the states themselves, not to federal politicians looking to make hay when there isn’t even a barn. Elections for national office certainly have consequences beyond state lines. But even the Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore limited federal oversight of state elections to the equal protection clause, a total non-factor in Trump’s Commission.

Of course concern over the integrity of our elections should be a top priority for every Virginian, indeed for every American. Voter fraud nullifies the principle of one-person-one-vote, and tarnishes the legitimacy of our elected leaders. Worse yet, it undermines faith in our democratic process.

My concern for protecting the sanctity of the ballot box led me in 2013 to author Virginia’s On-line Voter Registration Law which allowed citizens to register to vote and update their registration information on-line; that also ensured the Commonwealth maintained, updated and verified voter data.

Virginia is diligent in maintaining our voter rolls. As the Washington Post reported in 2013, we purged nearly 40,000 invalid voter records prior to the gubernatorial election. Future purges, in cooperation with neighboring states, and proof of citizenship and residency for paper-voter-registration, is what is needed to maintain Virginia’s election integrity.

Advocates for states’ rights should be very concerned with any new precedent of even voluntary federal oversight over our voter data. Opening this door could encourage activist courts or a future Justice Department to become creative in finding ways to expand upon federal authority over exclusive state prerogatives. Our credibility in fighting such a federal mandate tomorrow could be neutered by an indifferent response to Trump’s Commission today.

In the full light of day, Trump’s Commission amounts to little more than a fishing expedition to score political points. Trump knows that lack of compliance with his Commission will elicit cries of a cover-up, while cooperation will only further instigate a self-perpetuating enterprise hunting for proof of a conclusion it has already drawn.

The president knows full well that nothing positive will come of his commission. The only rationale for its creation is to serve as a soapbox to demagogue the issue of voter fraud even further. The result won’t be to give Americans more faith in our elections, but less. Lawmakers must recognize this as a nonsensical federal overreach into the lives of Virginia voters. This is one fishing expedition where Virginia shouldn’t take the bait.