Don’t trust partisans to have voters’ interests in mind for election rules.

As voting rights legislation sparks debate in Washington, a few observations seem appropriate.

First, both tradition and law primarily assign the mechanics of conducting elections to the individual states, as freshman Republican Congressman Scott Fitzgerald of Wisconsin noted in a news release.

“America’s tradition of free and fair elections is one of the hallmarks of this country’s democracy. This tradition has long depended on states’ ability to conduct effective oversight of elections, including the processes in which people register to vote and how those votes are recorded. (A bill passed last week in the House) steamrolls this authority that the integrity of our elections depends on nationalizing and injecting partisan oversight into the process. This bill is just the latest attempt by Democrats to grab onto more power ...”

Second, Fitzgerald is not the most effective spokesman for that point of view.

Before being elected to Congress, Fitzgerald was the long-serving majority leader of the Wisconsin Senate. In that role he was one of the architects of several actions clearly intended to lock in partisan advantage by manipulating not only voting rules but also rigged legislative district boundaries. On his watch, Wisconsin became the national poster boy for partisan overreach and excessive gerrymandering.

Third, history suggests bad things can happen in states if federal authorities take a hands-off approach to voting rights. Keep in mind federal intervention was necessary in several states to secure polling access for minority Americans.

Fourth, since the November 2020 election hundreds of measures have been introduced in state legislatures to change voting rules. Republicans generally argue those measures are aimed at tightening rules to reduce the risk of fraud. Democrats argue the real purpose is to suppress minority votes.

This is not a simple choice between states’ rights and federal oversight. It’s a careful balance to secure election integrity while protecting the right of every eligible American to easily cast a legal vote.

Does anyone really believe Republicans and Democrats can be trusted to get that right?

Thank God and the Constitution for courts.