From racial segregation to environmental destruction to voter suppression, the concepts of “federalism” and “states’ rights” have a long-running association with some of the worst outcomes of American conservatism. And we may soon add “endangering American democracy” to that list. These political philosophies are being invoked to sink a key election-security bill — at a time when midterm elections are being actively probed and prodded for weaknesses by potentially hostile nation-states. The Secure Elections Act (SEA), which seemed poised to become a rare bipartisan slam-dunk, may not even make it to a vote now that the bill has been pulled from committee, reportedly under order of the Trump White House.
A White House spokesperson told Yahoo News that passing SEA “could violate the principles of federalism,” referring to the idea that states should remain sovereign over the federal government whenever possible and appropriate. These principles have long been the preferred ideological weapon for states and municipalities that feel — or claim — that the feds are infringing on their jurisdiction.
This is especially true in the realm of election administration.
“Secretaries of state [are], in general, resistant to any sort of federal mandates on elections,” MIT political science professor Charles Stewart III told WhoWhatWhy. But partisanship plays a role here as well, says Stewart.
“Over the last eight years or so, there have been elements of the Republican Party who just want to get the federal government out of everything having to do with elections,” he said