[Image via Twitter]
Yesterday, citing opposition from states and ongoing lawsuits, President Trump dissolved the controversial Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The Washington Post has more:
President Trump on Wednesday announced that he is disbanding a controversial panel studying alleged voter fraud that became mired in multiple federal lawsuits and faced resistance from states that accused it of overreach.
The decision is a major setback for Trump, who created the commission last year in response to his claim, for which he provided no proof, that he lost the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 because of millions of illegally cast ballots.
The commission met only twice amid the series of lawsuits seeking to curb its authority and claims by Democrats that it was stacked to recommend voting restrictions favorable to the president’s party.
In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said there is “substantial evidence of voter fraud” and blamed the ending of the commission on the refusal of many states to provide voter data sought by the panel and the cost of ongoing lawsuits.
The bipartisan panel, known as the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, had been nominally chaired by Vice President Pence and led by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican who has aggressively sought to prosecute alleged voter fraud in his state. Pence in recent months had sought to distance himself from its work.
In the statement, Sanders said Trump had signed an executive order asking the Department of Homeland Security “to review its initial findings and determine next courses of action.”
Critics of the Commission hailed the move, but one current Commissioner who has been suing to get more details about its work noted that the focus on voter fraud is just likely shift elsewhere:
The 11-member commission proved a magnet for controversy from the outset and was sued by one of its members, Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap (D), who alleged in November that he has been kept in the dark about its operations, rendering his participation “essentially meaningless.”
Republicans on the commission accused Dunlap of paranoia, but a federal judge last month ruled partly in his favor.
In an interview Wednesday night, Dunlap said it may be premature to celebrate the demise of the commission, given Trump’s announcement that Homeland Security would pick up the work. The department, he said, could angle to change regulations affecting driver’s licenses and other matters affecting voting without as much public scrutiny.
“I think people who are saying ‘the witch is dead’ should be very alarmed by this move,” he said. “I think that’s very dangerous.”
Dunlap’s concerns seem to be borne out somewhat by suggestions that the White House blames PACEI’s opponents for its demise and is seeking a more favorable arena for its anti-fraud crusade:
A senior White House aide, however, said Democrats on the commission were to blame for refusing to work with the panel, as were states that refused to turn over public data.
The aide, who was not authorized to speak on behalf of the commission and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the Department of Homeland Security is “better equipped to take up the matter.”
I’ll leave the PACEI obituaries to others – for now, I’m curious about whether DHS’ new anti-fraud brief will interfere in any way with its growing election cybersecurity role, especially since bipartisan Congressional interest in helping to fund those efforts is slowly emerging. If it does interfere, that could be far more damaging than anything the Commission itself could have done.
Hang on – and stay tuned …