Fireworks over an information request from President Donald Trump’s election commission offer the latest example of state and local governments defying the White House.
Remarkably, Democrats are not the only ones resisting. Denials and condemnations of the personal-data demand come from more than half the states — including such Republican or bipartisan strongholds as Mississippi, Kentucky, Virginia and Ohio.
The panel traces its origins to one of Trump’s more bizarre episodes, starting with his tweet of Nov. 27: “I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”
Anyone involved in daily workings of the American electoral system, regardless of party, seemed to believe that the commander-in-chief was peddling some of his own homemade fake news or, in the kindest interpretation, exaggerating.
After all, even Trump’s own lawyers said during a recount-challenge case: “All available evidence suggests that the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake.”
Part of the tension here long predates the Trump administration. This consists of Republicans promoting the chimera of significant voter fraud and Democrats claiming the GOP’s sole goal is to suppress minority votes. It is the theme of perpetual court fights over voter IDs, gerrymandering and voter-roll “purges.”
Last week, the panel, which Trump calls a “voter fraud commission,” asked every state to provide data on all registered voters dating to 2006. California and Virginia were the first to decline to comply with the request.
Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state and vice chair of the President’s Advisory Commission on Electoral Integrity, asked in a letter for voter names, addresses, birth dates, voting history, military status and partial Social Security numbers, to be supplied by July 14, which would all be made public.
Vice President Mike Pence chairs the group.
Of those resisting, Trump asked darkly: “What are they trying to hide?”
But even Connie Lawson — a Republican who serves on Trump’s commission — was among those refusing the request, in her role as Indiana’s secretary of state. She said in a statement that the law permits her to comply with only part of what Kobach requested. Kobach himself acknowledged he can’t supply Kansas’ voters Social Security info under state law.
Delbert Hosemann, who is Mississippi’s GOP secretary of state, went further, inviting the commission to “go jump in the gulf.”
California was early out of the gate to object. Secretary of State Alex Padilla called the panel “a waste of taxpayer money.” He said the state’s participation “would only serve to legitimize the false and already debunked claims of massive voter fraud.”
By Friday, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo joined in.
“We will not be complying with this request and I encourage the Election Commission to work on issues of vital importance to voters, including ballot access, rather than focus on debunked theories of voter fraud,” Cuomo said.
Other fault lines have emerged between the federal government under Trump and various states and localities. These include “sanctuary cities” for illegal immigration, new proposals for Medicaid funding distribution, adherence to the Paris climate accords and certain crime policies.