The fight over voting rules didn't start with Trump's tweets

3/20/2017

When President Trump said “millions” voted illegally in November, he joined an old American battle. The fight over who can vote in the United States goes back more than two centuries, with one group after another demanding to participate in our democracy, and the Supreme Court often playing referee. This history puts voting rights at the center of this week's confirmation hearings for Neil M. Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee to fill the ninth seat on the high court. The next justice's pen, not the president's tweets, could redefine your right to vote.

Nonetheless, Trump has raised the stakes over voting rights. He insists not just that he won the popular vote (he didn’t) but that 3 million people voted illegally in California, Virginia and New Hampshire. That assertion is nonsense. Democratic and Republican election officials confirm that voter fraud is almost nonexistent, and Trump’s own lawyers agree the 2016 election was fair. But even cartoonish claims may have big consequences. Vice President Mike Pence has been tapped to investigate Trump’s charges. National legislation to curb voting rights — in the guise of protecting the franchise — could follow.