Why Does Trump Oppose Election Reform?

Without realizing what he was doing, Donald Trump confessed to another crime during his Wednesday interview with Ainsley Earhardt of Fox News. In this case, his statements about the hush money payments his lawyer Michael Cohen made to his mistresses show that he knowingly lied on his 2017 federal financial disclosure by omitting the debt he owed to Cohen. You can just add that to the pile, I guess.

What’s more serious is the administration’s refusal to do anything to secure our elections:

A bill that would have significantly bolstered the nation’s defenses against electoral interference has been held up in the Senate at the behest of the White House, which opposed the proposed legislation, according to congressional sources.

The Secure Elections Act, introduced by Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., in December 2017, had co-sponsorship from two of the Senate’s most prominent liberals, Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., as well as from conservative stalwart Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and consummate centrist Susan Collins, R-Me.

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., was set to conduct a markup of the bill on Wednesday morning in the Senate Rules Committee, which he chairs. The bill had widespread support, including from some of the committee’s Republican members, and was expected to come to a full Senate vote in October. But then the chairman’s mark, as the critical step is known, was canceled, and no explanation was given.

I want to you to understand the basic idea behind the bill, so let’s look at some of the provisions that were expected to be included:

As it currently stands, the legislation would grant every state’s top election official security clearance to receive threat information. It would also formalize the practice of information-sharing between the federal government—in particular, the Department of Homeland Security—and states regarding threats to electoral infrastructure. A technical advisory board would establish best practices related to election cybersecurity. Perhaps most significantly, the law would mandate that every state conduct a statistically significant audit following a federal election. It would also incentivize the purchase of voting machines that leave a paper record of votes cast, as opposed to some all-electronic models that do not. This would signify a marked shift away from all-electronic voting, which was encouraged with the passage of the Help Americans Vote Act in 2002.

It’s important to realize that this is a Republican bill with Democratic co-sponsors. It’s not true that there are no Republicans who are willing to legislate to protect the integrity of our elections, and this wasn’t a toothless or symbolic bill. It had some very worthwhile components. If nothing else, simply incentivizing the states to have elections that can be audited was a necessary step. Mandating that elections be audited was a major reform.

But the White House stepped in and shut the whole thing down. I wrote yesterday that Trump seems to be purposively working to undermine confidence in our elections, and this just bolsters my case. We have to ask why he’s doing it.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.