Something not all that unusual happened in Illinois politics on Monday: New Jersey governor Chris Christie showed up in Chicago to campaign for his friend, Bruce Rauner.
As something of a star in conservative circles, campaigning for other Republican gubernatorial candidates is something Christie loves to do. He showed up in Birmingham, Ala
., for Republican governor Robert Bentley earlier this month. In July, he traveled to Iowa
for Gov. Terry Branstad. He’s been invited to visit
with Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin. And he chowed down on hot dogs
with Rauner in Chicago not too long ago.
On these trips, Christie seems to have two primary goals: raise millions of dollars for Republican candidates, and blame every evil in the world on Democrats. And he’s good at both. In July, for example, he raised $2.5 million
for Rauner. And on Monday he called the administration of incumbent Democrat Pat Quinn a “miserable failure
In his most recent visit to Chicago, however, Christie also showed something else he believes in: a fundamental disdain for the basic rules of democracy.
In his remarks
, Christie suggested that a law recently passed
allowing Illinois residents to register to vote and cast a ballot on the same day was nothing more than a partisan effort designed to make it harder for voters to elect Republican Rauner in the November elections.
“He will try every trick in the book,” Christie said of Quinn. “I see the stuff that’s going on. Same-day registration all of a sudden this year comes to Illinois. Shocking,” he added sarcastically. “I’m sure it was all based upon public policy, good public policy to get same-day registration here in Illinois just this year, when the governor is in the toilet and needs as much help as he can get.”
He also took issue with recent court rulings
allowing Libertarian Party candidates but not Green Party or Constitution Party candidates on the November ballot.
“Now I see that the court’s ruled that the Libertarian candidate can be on the ticket but the Green Party can’t. Another interesting development. … Every obstacle that can be placed in front of Bruce by the establishment in this state will be placed in front of him.
In stumping for Rauner, Christie is engaging in a long-held belief
among Republicans that any attempts to expand the pool of eligible voters anywhere is basically an effort to tip the electoral scales on behalf of Democrats. To back up this argument, Republicans regularly rely on unproven claims
of voter fraud in their attempts to block states' efforts to expand voter registration.
It’s a battle that’s being played out in state after state. Activists in North Carolina are fighting back
against the nation’s most restrictive voting laws, passed by Republicans there last year. Recently expanded voter registrations laws are under attack by Republicans
in Montana. The Colorado GOP wants to undo a new elections law
that allows same-day registration. Republicans in Nevada have made opposition to same-day registration part of their platform
In all, nine states
have passed measures of one kind or another making it harder to vote since the beginning of 2013.
Right here in Illinois, however, the tide appears to be turning. Besides the recently-enacted law making it easier to register, vote while at college and cast an early ballot, a number of pro-democracy groups are working to expand the pool of eligible voters in advance of both the November state-wide elections and the 2015 Chicago municipal races.
That’s because same-day voter registration works. Study
shows states that allow same-day voter registration had higher turnout than states that do not. Four of the top five states
for voter turnout in the 2012 presidential election all offered same-day registration, while average voter turnout is over 10 percentage points higher in states that allow the practice.
You can’t tell any of that to Chris Christie, though. In his world, any new voter brought into the process of democracy must be a Democrat and nothing more than a political “trick”. While Christie may think such an argument might help Bruce Rauner politically down the road, it's a stance that’s so opposed to the basic rules of democracy that even Rauner, to his credit, has rejected it
That’s saying something. Maybe the next time Christie comes to town, he can check with the candidate he’s supporting to make sure they've got their stories straight on whether basic democracy is a good idea or not.