Obama Is Using The Russians As An Excuse To Expand Federal Power Over Elections

John Fund, National Review

A decentralized election system makes large-scale hacking nearly impossible. We should keep it that way.

The Obama Administration is leaving office much like the way it came in — by exploiting perceived crises.

“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s just-named chief of staff, told a Wall Street Journal conference of top CEOs in November 2008 while his boss was still president-elect. Since then a slew of constitutionally dubious executive orders, presidential emergencies, and rushed legislation have characterized the Obama presidency. Now he is leaving office by issuing a blizzard of “midnight regulations” and edicts.

One of the most troublesome came last Friday and gave the federal government the power to begin centralizing our election systems. The Constitution explicitly gives states the power to set the “times, manner and places of holding elections.”

But Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson used the excuse of Friday’s release of a report on Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee to declare that state and local voting systems will be designated as “pieces of critical infrastructure” so that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can protect them from hackers.

His move — coming just 15 days before President Obama leaves office — led many experts to question both its wisdom and its constitutionality. “While the federal government has the general power to protect the nation’s cyber infrastructure, it cannot intrude into areas of state sovereignty without clear constitutional mandate,” John Yoo, a law professor at UC Berkeley, told CNSNews.com.

“There is no federal power to control or secure elections. Each state administers its own elections, restricted only by constitutional protections for voting rights,” agreed Illya Shapiro, senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute. “It may make sense for states to request federal support here, but it would set a dangerous precedent for a federal agency to unilaterally take over state electoral processes.”

Secretary Johnson’s decision sparked outrage from many of those who are most knowledgeable about our election system — the 50 secretaries of state who, along with local officials, run the election process. Even Johnson admitted that “many of them are opposed to this designation.” And how.

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