December 12, 2017
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What is Trump’s voter fraud commission hiding?

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap.

How bogus is President Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission? One of the group’s own members, Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, has filed a lawsuit to get more information about what the panel is doing since no one is telling him, or other Democratic members. It is one of many lawsuits filed against the President’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.

In his lawsuit, Dunlap contends that the commission is violating the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which seeks to prevent groups like the election advisory commission from being used to advance partisan objectives under the guises of a balanced review. The act says that the membership of advisory committees must be “fairly balanced in terms of the points of view represented.” In addition, commission materials must be available to all members.

Dunlap’s suit alleges that only some commission members are preparing materials and then those materials are not shared with the entire commission, which includes seven Republicans and four Democrats. Materials, which Dunlap and other commission members have not previously seen, have been presented at commission meetings, where it is clear that other members have participated in writing them.

There are hundreds of documents prepared by and for the commission, according to another lawsuit involving the election commission. Most were not shared with Dunlap, according to his legal complaint.

Last month, Dunlap and an Alabama probate judge, who is also a Democratic member of the commission, wrote to its executive director seeking information.

“I think the basis of this whole commission was an urban legend,” Alan King, a probate judge in Alabama who signed the letter with Dunlap, told the Washington Post. “If you’re going to go down this road, it needs to be done right, and it needs to be done in a professional way. So far, I haven’t seen that.”

Instead, it appears the some on the commission are building a case for tighter voting restrictions based on materials they are not willing to share with commission members who don’t share their political motivations.

Before the commission began its work, Trump claimed that millions of illegal votes were cast in the 2016 election. This is an absurd claim that should be dismissed, not used as a pretense to kick voters, many of them poor and minorities, off voter rolls.

Jason Leavitt, a Loyola Law School professor, did a comprehensive analysis of voter fraud allegations between 2000 and 2014 and found 31 instances nationwide with credible evidence of potential fraud that may have been addressed through voter ID laws and another 13 cases of potential voter impersonation that such laws would not have stopped. That’s out of more than 1 billion ballots cast.

“[B]y any measure, voter fraud is extraordinarily rare,” Leavitt wrote in a 2007 report for the Brennan Center for Justice. Most instances of alleged voter fraud are instead clerical errors made by election officials.

This hasn’t dissuaded Trump’s commission from its hunt for voter fraud.

As part of its review, the commission sent a letter to all 50 states asking for their entire voter files. Dunlap refused the request due to privacy concerns. In a weird twist, so did Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the same Kris Kobach who is co-chair of the election commission. He’s also the same Kris Kobach who has a long history of trying to restrict voting rights in Kansas, moves that are often rejected by the courts as violations of federal law.

The lack of transparency isn’t just a concern to Dunlap and other Democrats on the commission. The Government Accountability Office announced last week that it will investigate its operations and funding. Unfortunately, because of staffing constraints, the federal watchdog won’t begin its review for five months. By then, the commission may have finished its “review” and offered its recommendations to the president.

If, as expected, the commission recommends further restrictions on voting, it will be up to Congress to stop unneeded infringements on Americans’ voting rights.

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