Election Law

Trump disbands voter fraud commission, says Homeland Security will take over investigation

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President Donald Trump has shut down the controversial White House commission he created to investigate voter fraud, but he has handed the inquiry off the Department of Homeland Security, the New York Times and Washington Post report.

The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity was established by executive order in May after the president, who won the Electoral College but not the popular vote, insisted repeatedly that Hillary Clinton received approximately 2.9 million more votes because of illegal voting. The inquiry quickly was bogged down by numerous lawsuits; claims that it was acting in secrecy to the point of keeping information from even some of its own members; security and privacy concerns over the voter data being requested by the commission; opposition from both Democratic and Republican state officials; and the lack of credible evidence of widespread voter fraud.

After abruptly disbanding the commission on Wednesday, President Trump did not drop his argument, tweeting Thursday that the voting system “is rigged,” and blaming the many states that had refused to provide detailed information on individual voters. The commission, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, had requested details such as voters’ names and party affiliations, birth dates, felony conviction records, voting histories for the past decade and the last four digits of all voters’ Social Security numbers.

A federal judge in Washington, D.C., recently upheld part of a claim by one commission member, Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, a Democrat, that he had been illegally excluded from its deliberations. Three other Democrats on the 11-member commission expressed similar concerns, but only Dunlap filed suit.

“He has a right to access documents that the commission is considering relying on in the course of developing its final recommendations,” U.S. District Jude Colleen Kollar-Kotelly wrote in her ruling last month, the Los Angeles Times reported at the time.

President Trump disbanded the commission just days before a deadline for detailing how it intended to proceed.

“The commission’s entire purpose was to legitimize voter suppression,” Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and former head of the Justice Departments Civil Rights Division, told the Times. “The abrupt abandonment of the commission makes clear that it had become a thoroughly discredited body that could not find evidence of mass voter fraud.”

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a statement laying responsibility for the commission’s demise on the many states that refused to provide voter data “despite substantial evidence of voter fraud,” and also on the cost of ongoing lawsuits challenging the commission.

“It got to the point where the staff of the commission was spending more time responding to litigation than doing an investigation,” Kris Kobach, the Republican secretary of state of Kansas and the commission’s vice chair, who strongly supported the president’s claims of voter fraud, told the Times. “Think of it as an option play; a decision was made in the middle of the day to pass the ball. The Department of Homeland Security is going to be able to move faster and more efficiently than a presidential advisory commission.”

DHS has the capability, if states cooperate, of gathering and using data on individual voters without the kind of transparency that was required of the commission.

Dunlap says that moving the inquiry to DHS is “utterly alarming.”

“Any chance of having this investigation done in a public forum is now lost, and I think people should be, frankly, frightened by that,” he told the Times.

Related article:

ABAJournal.com: “Texas judge blocks state from turning over voter data to Trump’s voter fraud commission”

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