U.S. Civil Rights Commission shelves recommendations for protecting voter rights in November

Marco Verch Professional Photographer and Speaker / Flickr Man putting his vote in the 1590256736.jpg...
Marco Verch Professional Photographer and Speaker / Flickr

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, an independent federal board of eight commissioners tasked with investigating civil rights issues and recommending remedies, has created a new series of recommendations to better protect minority voting rights during the coronavirus pandemic.

We will never see it, reports USA Today. By a party line vote, the committee’s four conservative members voted to block its release and end work on the project.

The reasons for the conservative objections are … interesting. The Trump-appointed Stephen Gilchrist told USA Today that he found the timing of issuing a report on voting challenges and recommendations so close to an election “somewhat suspect.” (Work on the report began in June.) A second Trump appointee, J. Christian Adams, appears to have gone more directly down a conspiracy path: USA Today reported he voted against the report’s release because it “overlooked the disenfranchising effect of mail voting”—claims that resulted in a “mostly false” rating from fact-checkers at PolitiFact a few months back.

So yeah, there’s just not going to be a report. Won’t happen.

USA Today uses this latest fiasco to dive into the relatively new impotence of the Commission on Civil Rights, created by the 1957 Civil Rights Act but with no statutory authority, having been stripped of it in 1996. It’s a suitably depressing read. The short version is that it, like the Federal Elections Commission and other would-be nonpartisan federal efforts, suffers from the same intentional conservative neglect as the others.

Each of these commissions rests on the assumption that regardless of party differences, some base level of integrity is necessary for the nation to function at all—whether that be policing against illegal campaign activity or keeping watch against intentional voter suppression efforts. Those assumptions are no longer true; one of the two parties now sees itself as benefiting from the relaxation of both norms. So here we are, again.

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Is anyone surprised?