When it comes to Republican governors imposing harsh, new voting restrictions, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) is hardly the first name that pops up. The Republican vetoed an early-voting bill last year, he’s offered some odd criticisms of same-day registration recently, and he played some shameless political games when scheduling his state’s U.S. Senate special election last year, but in general, Christie isn’t known for electoral mischief, at least not by contemporary GOP standards.
But that’s all the more reason to take note of Christie’s comments this week on “voting mechanisms.” The Bergen Record reported this morning:
Governor Christie pushed further into the contentious debate over voting rights than ever before, saying Tuesday that Republicans need to win gubernatorial races this year so that they’re the ones controlling “voting mechanisms” going into the next presidential election.Christie stressed the need to keep Republicans in charge of states – and overseeing state-level voting regulations – ahead of the next presidential election.
In remarks to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the New Jersey governor said, “Would you rather have Rick Scott in Florida overseeing the voting mechanism, or Charlie Crist? Would you rather have Scott Walker in Wisconsin overseeing the voting mechanism, or would you rather have Mary Burke? Who would you rather have in Ohio, John Kasich or Ed FitzGerald?”
I’m not sure which is worse: the prospect of Christie making these remarks without thinking them through or Christie making these remarks because he’s already thought this through.
In theory, in a functioning democracy, control over “voting mechanisms” shouldn’t dictate election outcomes. Citizens consider the candidates, they cast their ballots, the ballots are counted, and the winner takes office. It’s supposed to be non-partisan – indeed, the oversight of the elections process must be professional and detached from politics in order to maintain the integrity of the system itself.
So what exactly is Chris Christie suggesting here?
One possible interpretation is that Republican victories will lead to control over elections, which in turn will lead to more Republican victories. If this is what the governor meant, Christie almost seemed to be endorsing corruption.
A more charitable interpretation is that the governor thinks Democrats will try to cheat, so electing Republicans will ensure the proper “voting mechanisms.”
Still, political scientist Norm Ornstein paraphrased Christie’s comments this way: “How can we cheat on vote counts if we don’t control the governorships?”