Editorials: The fight over voting rules didn’t start with Trump’s tweets | Michael Waldman/Los Angeles Times

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.

In the earliest days of the republic, expanding the right to vote was all about who owned what. At first, only white men with property could cast a ballot. Amid the idealism of the American Revolution, that rule came under pressure. Benjamin Franklin led the fight in Pennsylvania in 1776. Said Franklin: “Today a man owns a jackass worth fifty dollars and he is entitled to vote; but before the next election the jackass dies.” Thus the man cannot vote. “Now gentlemen, pray inform me, in whom is the right of suffrage? In the man or in the jackass?”

Up in Boston, John Adams was aghast at Franklin’s push to repeal the property requirement. Soon, he wrote, women, 18-year-olds and “every man, who has not a farthing, will demand an equal voice with any other in all acts of state.”

“There will be no end of it,” Adams warned. But Franklin’s view eventually prevailed. The property requirement was eliminated during the era of Andrew Jackson. (It’s interesting to note, given today’s politics, that it was angry white working-class men who won the first voting-rights victory.)

Full Article: The fight over voting rules didn’t start with Trump’s tweets – LA Times.

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