I have written this oped for the Los Angeles Times. It begins:
President Trump’s precipitous decision Wednesday to shutter his “election integrity” commission — buried amid a slew of revelations from Michael Wolff’s new tell-all book about the Trump campaign and presidency — is good news for Americans who care about fair elections in the United States. Though Trump’s tweets Thursday about voter fraud and his announcement that he will shift the commission’s investigation to the Department of Homeland Security means he won’t let go of the issue, the greatest immediate danger to voting rights seems to have passed.
After Trump’s announcement, a White House official told CNN that the commission went “off the rails” and Pence distanced himself from it. Kobach tried to put the best face on things Wednesday night, telling Politico:“Anyone on the left needs to realize that by throwing the food in the air, they just lost a seat at the table.” He said he expected Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in the Department of Homeland Security to take up where the commission left off.
But it is not clear that ICE would be able to accomplish more than this doomed commission. Privacy rules require federal agencies to disclose the use of voter data. If the Homeland Security Department actually does something to please Trump, it will undermine its reputation, and thus its work advising state election officials about how to combat foreign hacking. There will be more lawsuits. Without a commission, there will no longer be a veneer of “bipartisanship,” which could be used to sell new restrictive voting legislation.
Trump will still yell about voter fraud. But the commission was bankrupt before Trump officially yanked its charter, and perhaps with its clownish demise the country can get on to the serious business of improving our election system and protecting it from external hacking and other threats. That remains a desperate need.