Since the White House announced its voter fraud commission earlier this month, there’s been no shortage of opinions about the effort.
Democrats, voting rights advocates, and most independent election experts, noting President Trump’s false claims about illegal voting, have denounced the panel as an apparent bid to lay the groundwork for new voting restrictions. Some conservatives have defended the idea, arguing that if voter fraud doesn’t exist, there should be nothing to worry about.
But one key figure has remained tight-lipped: Republican super-lawyer Ben Ginsberg, who co-chaired the last presidential commission on voting, a bipartisan and widely respected effort launched by President Barack Obama in 2013.
The Daily Democracy asked Ginsberg for his thoughts on the Trump panel a day after it was announced. We followed up a few days later. On Friday, a day after Democrats announced a voting commission of their own to counter Trump’s, we tried a third time, by email and phone.
Ginsberg hasn’t responded, nor has he commented publicly on the commission elsewhere, according to an internet search.
Complicating the situation for Ginsberg may be his status as a partner at Jones Day, the Washington D.C. outfit that’s been called “Donald Trump’s favorite law firm.” At least 14 Jones Day lawyers have joined the Trump administration, Bloomberg reported, including White House counsel Donald McGahn, who also served as the Trump campaign’s top lawyer.
Whatever the reason for it, Ginsberg’s reticence stands in contrast to his the attitude of his co-chair on the Obama commission, Democratic election lawyer Bob Bauer. Within a day of the Trump commission’s announcement, Bauer had publicly called on election administration experts to boycott it, predicting that the panel’s work would result in “politically charged claims and legislative and other proposals to restrict the right to vote.”
Bauer and Ginsberg worked effectively together on the Obama commission, known as the President’s Commission on Election Administration (PCEA), which was created after some voters in Florida and elsewhere waited all day to vote in the 2012 presidential election. The PCEA produced a 2014 report with recommendations for easing the voting process, including reducing wait times at the polls. A followup report last year found significant progress in response to the recommendations.
Ginsberg is among the best connected Republican lawyers in the country. He served as co-counsel to President George W. Bush’s campaigns in 2000 and 2004, playing a key role in the 2000 Florida recount. He was the top lawyer for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2012. And throughout last year, Ginsberg was a frequent commentator on MSNBC, including on election night.