New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) stunned voting-rights advocates this week, arguing that Republican governors should control “voting mechanisms” in order to help the party win the 2016 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?”
Political scientist Norm Ornstein paraphrased Christie’s comments this way: “How can we cheat on vote counts if we don’t control the governorships?”
The good news is, the Garden State governor decided to clarify his remarks yesterday. The bad news is, Christie made things worse.
“Everybody read much too much into that,” he said. “You know who gets to appoint people, who gets to decide in part what the rules are, I’d much rather have Republican governors counting those votes when we run in 2016 as Republicans than I would have Democrats. There was no specific reference to any laws.”Christie noted that he was specifically talking about electing Republican governors and that it is state legislatures that are passing voter identification requirements.
According to another local account, the governor added, “What I was talking about was, who’s going to be in charge of the state when the votes are being counted.”
As Rachel noted yesterday, “That’s the kind of ‘clarification’ that makes things worse, not better.”
Indeed, taking the two sets of Christie comments together, it’s difficult to think of a charitable interpretation.
As we discussed the other day, 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 – the oversight of the elections process must be professional and detached from politics in order to maintain the integrity of the system itself.
But Christie’s preferred model flips the system on its head. He wants an elections process in which Republicans control the “voting mechanisms,” Republicans appoint the elections officials, Republicans help dictate “what the rules are” when it comes to Americans casting ballots, and Republicans are “in charge of the state when the votes are being counted.”
In other words, Christie doesn’t want a non-partisan elections process. The governor and likely presidential candidate wants the exact opposite.
Brian Beutler added, “In Christie’s mind, American election outcomes are a direct function of partisan control of states. Republicans, who ‘oversee the voting mechanisms,’ need to win so that they can continue to ‘oversee the voting mechanisms.’ If they don’t win now, they’ll lose control of the voting mechanisms ahead of an election in which fundamentals will favor the Democrats, and be doomed.”
It might very well be the most controversial thing Christie has ever said in public. That he sees this as unimportant – his intended “clarification” only added insult to injury – speaks volumes about Christie’s cynical, partisan vision of how democracy is supposed to work.