When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary to say no to one’s own party, not many have the courage. On the day before the United States celebrated its independence for the 241st time, Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Murray took a courageously independent stand for freedom.
Recently President Trump created a federal agency to bolster his false, self-serving claim that he’d have won the popular vote but for millions of illegal votes cast for Hillary Clinton. The secretary of state in Kansas, Kris Kobach, made a name for himself hunting down voters committing fraud. He found about a dozen out of well over a million votes cast.
Still, Kobach’s quixotic crusade caught the attention of the president. Trump appointed Kobach vice chair of his Orwellian-titled Presidential Commission on Election Integrity.
Creation of the commission itself was a slap in the face of every secretary of state in the nation. Their primary job is to make sure elections are fair. The largest majority are Republicans who care as much as their Democratic colleagues that the electoral system is conducted with integrity. They have done this job diligently.
Nonetheless, the president alleges millions voted illegally in 2016. Those closest to the process are the secretaries of state, people like Ed Murray. It is their credibility at stake when the president makes such demonstrably false claims.
Their credibility was unfairly challenged when, without statutory authority, Kobach casually sent a letter to state elections officials, demanding they produce reams of personal and private information on every voter.
Ed Murray said no. “It’s not sitting well with me,” he declared, giving voice to state’s rights and the privacy of his constituents. Wyoming’s secretary of state worried aloud whether this request “could lead to some federal overreach.” Indeed, that is where this commission is headed.
Ed Murray was first elected to this job in 2014. Wyoming assigns its secretary of state a variety of responsibilities. The job description includes registering and monitoring corporations and others doing business in the state. The secretary of state serves alongside the other four state elected officials on numerous boards and commissions. He also serves as acting governor when the governor is out of state. Of these duties, none is more important than making certain elections are free and clean. There’s never been a legitimate claim that they are not. The same is true in every other state, which renders the need for this federal commission suspect.
The request for private information, including portions of your Social Security number and voter history, is not only invasive and in violation of many state laws, but the president’s commission has neither the authority to make the request nor any legitimate need for the information.
Connecticut’s election head made a poignant counter-request of the federal commission, asking it to share “any memos, meeting minutes or additional information, as state officials have not been told precisely what the commission is looking for. This lack of openness is all the more concerning, considering that the vice chair of the commission, Kris Kobach, has a lengthy record of illegally disenfranchising eligible voters in Kansas.”
Murray’s decision is courageous, deserving of the support and gratitude of Wyoming citizens who understand the importance of the sovereignty of state governments in the context of the American republic.
Pause to consider the abundance of conspiracy theories and the explosion of outrage that would have followed such a letter from the Obama administration. Though a Republican, Trump apparently never read the memo explaining how his party jealously guards states’ rights and personal privacy.
Attempting to bully states into providing this information, Trump tweeted, “Numerous states are refusing to give information to the very distinguished VOTER FRAUD PANEL. What are they trying to hide?” Hiding our private information from the government is not a vice. It’s an American value with which this president may not be familiar. Thanks to Ed Murray, he’s been given a lesson on how much it matters.
Rodger McDaniel lives in Laramie and is the pastor at Highlands Presbyterian Church in Cheyenne. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.