Trump Disbands Voter Fraud Commission Amid Fights, Lawsuits

Jan 4, 2018

Credit AP/File

President Donald Trump is disbanding his controversial voter fraud commission amid infighting, lawsuits and state officials' refusal to cooperate.

On Twitter early Thursday he said states that wouldn't cooperate must know they have people voting illegally.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the commission's vice chairman, characterized the decision to dissolve the bipartisan group as a "tactical change" and argued the Department of Homeland Security can pursue an investigation of election fraud more quickly and efficiently.

"The Democrats, both on and off the commission, made very clear that they were not interested in determining the scope and extent of voter fraud and, indeed, they were trying to stop the commission in its tracks," said Kobach, a Republican. "The Democrats lost their opportunity, lost their seat at the table, by stonewalling."

Kris Kobach
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Kobach, who has enacted tougher voter ID laws in Kansas, alleged Democrats wanted no investigation.

"Their motto is, 'Nothing to see here,'" he said.

Trump convened the commission to investigate the 2016 presidential election, after alleging repeatedly and without evidence that voting fraud cost him the popular vote. Trump won the Electoral College. 

The White House blamed the decision to end the panel on more than a dozen states that have refused to comply with the commission's demand for reams of personal voter data, including names, partial Social Security numbers, voting histories and party affiliations.

Trump said in tweets early Thursday that the states, mostly Democratic leaning, "fought hard that the Commission not see their records or methods because they know that many people are voting illegally," he tweeted.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement Wednesday that Trump signed an executive order to dissolve the commission "rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense."

Critics saw the commission as part of a conservative campaign to make it harder for poor people and minority voters to access the ballot box, and to justify Trump's claims of voter fraud.

Trump has repeatedly alleged, without evidence, that 3 million to 5 million people voted illegally in the 2016 election, delivering the popular vote to his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. Clinton received more than 2.8 million more votes than Trump nationwide.

While there have been isolated cases of voter fraud in the U.S., past studies have found it to be exceptionally rare.

One of the members of the commission, Democratic Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, sued the commission in federal court, alleging it had violated federal law by refusing to provide him documents available to other members, among other charges.

Three Democratic senators -- Michael Bennet of Colorado, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota -- had also asked the U.S. Government Accountability Office to investigate the commission, which it agreed to do in October.

More than a dozen states, as well as the District of Columbia, had rebuffed the commission's request for voter data, citing privacy concerns and a fear that complying would legitimize the idea that voter fraud is widespread.

While there have been isolated cases of people voting illegally, and many voter rolls contain outdated data, there is no evidence voter fraud is a widespread problem in the United States or has affected election results.

A study by a Loyola Law School professor found that out of 1 billion votes cast in all American elections between 2000 and 2014, there were only 31 known cases of impersonation fraud.

Voter advocacy groups and Democrats applauded Wednesday's decision.

"It is no surprise that a commission founded on a lie of widespread voter fraud proved to be a fraud itself," said California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, a Democrat, who had refused to comply with the commission's request for voter data. "No taxpayer dollars should have been wasted on Mr. Trump's voter suppression crusade."