Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE -

(cen­ter) gavels in the first meet­ing of the Pres­i­den­tial Ad­vi­sory Com­mis­sion on Elec­tion In­tegrity on Wednes­day in Wash­ing­ton. Pence said the panel had no pre­or­dained re­sults, while Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump sug­gested that states that have re­fused to com­ply with the com­mis­sion’s re­quest for voter in­for­ma­tion have some­thing to hide.

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on Wednes­day ques­tioned the mo­tives of states that have re­fused to com­ply with his voter-fraud com­mis­sion’s re­quest for ex­ten­sive per­sonal voter in­for­ma­tion, sug­gest­ing they have some­thing to hide.

“One has to won­der what they’re wor­ried about,” Trump said at the first meet­ing of the Pres­i­den­tial Ad­vi­sory Com­mis­sion on Elec­tion In­tegrity. He said, “There’s some­thing, there al­ways is.”

The meet­ing comes dur­ing anger at the com­mis­sion’s re­quest to each state for ex­ten­sive per­sonal voter in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing voter names, vot­ing his­to­ries and party af­fil­i­a­tions. Aides to Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence, who serves as the com­mis­sion’s chair­man, have said they only asked for in­for­ma­tion that was al­ready pub­licly avail­able.

But at least 17 states, plus Wash­ing­ton, D.C., have re­buffed the re­quest, cit­ing pri­vacy con­cerns and a fear that com­ply­ing would le­git­imize the un­proven idea that voter fraud is wide­spread. The re­quests have also sparked mul­ti­ple law­suits.

Crit­ics see the com­mis­sion as part of a con­ser­va­tive cam­paign to strip mem­bers of mi­nor­ity groups and poor peo­ple from the voter rolls and to jus­tify un­founded claims made by a pres­i­dent who was an­gry about los­ing the pop­u­lar vote. They also won­der why the White House ap­pears more con­cerned with un­proven al­le­ga­tions of large-scale voter fraud than the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity’s con­clu­sion that Rus­sia med­dled in the 2016 cam­paign.

But Trump said the com­mis­sion would ad­dress se­ri­ous con­cerns he heard from vot­ers again and again.

“Through­out the cam­paign and even af­ter, peo­ple would come up to me and ex­press con­cerns about voter in­con­sis­ten­cies and voter ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties which they saw, in some cases hav­ing to do with very large num­bers of peo­ple in cer­tain states,” Trump said, adding, “All pub­lic of­fi­cials have a pro­found re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­tect the in­tegrity of the vote.”

In his open­ing re­marks at Wednes­day’s meet­ing, David Dunn, a former Arkansas law­maker and a Demo­crat, ac­knowl­edged that the let­ter sent to states re­quest­ing voter in­for­ma­tion had raised con­cerns.

“I hope that this com­mis­sion will en­sure the pri­vacy of Amer­ica’s vot­ing pub­lic,” he said. “I un­der­stand while the let­ter that was sent to the states asked for only pub­licly avail­able voter in­for­ma­tion, it still raised con­cerns. And I be­lieve that any data, statis­tics or in­for­ma­tion col­lected by us or by the state should be held in our trust and safe­guarded from any po­lit­i­cal mis­use.”

While other com­mis­sion­ers have con­tended that there is on­go­ing elec­tion fraud, Dunn said he wants the com­mis­sion to “look at a myr­iad of is­sues to de­ter­mine whether there are sig­nif­i­cant prob­lems in­volv­ing elec­tions and voter in­tegrity.”

Arkansas sub­mit­ted its vot­ing data to the com­mis­sion July 5, be­com­ing the first state to do so.

The in­for­ma­tion Arkansas sub­mit­ted to a fed­eral file ex­change did not con­tain So­cial Se­cu­rity num­bers, felony con­vic­tions, mil­i­tary sta­tus and driver’s li­cense num­bers. Such in­for­ma­tion is not pub­licly avail­able in Arkansas.

How­ever, names, ad­dresses, dates of birth, po­lit­i­cal party af­fil­i­a­tions, voter his­tory since 2008, reg­is­tra­tion sta­tus, email ad­dresses and phone num­bers were shared. The data­base does not say for whom some­one voted — only whether they voted.

The same Arkansas voter in­for­ma­tion that was re­leased to the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has been pro­vided about 200 times since Jan­uary 2015 to var­i­ous en­ti­ties, said Kelly Boyd, the state’s chief deputy sec­re­tary of state.


Trump con­vened the vot­ing com­mis­sion af­ter claim­ing on Twit­ter and in meet­ings with law­mak­ers that voter fraud cost him the 2016 pop­u­lar vote, de­spite past stud­ies show­ing voter fraud is ex­ceed­ingly rare.

“In ad­di­tion to win­ning the Elec­toral Col­lege in a land­slide, I won the pop­u­lar vote if you deduct the mil­lions of peo­ple who voted il­le­gally,” he tweeted in Novem­ber, sev­eral weeks af­ter his elec­toral vic­tory. He also al­leged at the time, with­out ev­i­dence, that there had been “se­ri­ous voter fraud” in Cal­i­for­nia, New Hamp­shire and Vir­ginia and com­plained that the me­dia wasn’t cov­er­ing it.

Trump con­tin­ued to make the claim af­ter his in­au­gu­ra­tion, telling a group of bi­par­ti­san con­gres­sional lead­ers days af­ter he took of­fice that he would have won the pop­u­lar vote if 3 mil­lion to 5 mil­lion im­mi­grants liv­ing in the coun­try il­le­gally hadn’t voted.

While there have been iso­lated cases of peo­ple vot­ing il­le­gally, there has been no ev­i­dence of wide­spread voter fraud that would have af­fected the elec­tion re­sults. Trump won the Elec­toral Col­lege by a com­fort­able mar­gin, but 2016 ri­val Hil­lary Clin­ton won the pop­u­lar vote by nearly 2.9 mil­lion votes.

Kris Kobach, the vice chair­man of the vot­ing com­mis­sion, said in an in­ter­view with MSNBC that “we may never know” whether Clin­ton re­ally won the pop­u­lar vote.

“We will prob­a­bly never know the an­swer to that ques­tion, be­cause even if you could prove that a cer­tain num­ber of votes were cast by in­el­i­gi­ble vot­ers, for ex­am­ple, you wouldn’t know how they voted,” said Kobach, who is also Kansas’ sec­re­tary of state.

Sarah Huck­abee San­ders, a spokesman for Trump, re­buffed ques­tions about whether vot­ing ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties would un­der­mine the le­git­i­macy of Trump’s vic­tory in the Elec­toral Col­lege.

“It is clear who the pres­i­dent is based on the fact of who is sit­ting in the Oval Of­fice,” San­ders said.

The com­mis­sion will also ex­am­ine ways to pro­tect vot­ing sys­tems from for­eign in­ter­fer­ence, ac­cord­ing to Pence aides. U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies have con­cluded that the Rus­sian gov­ern­ment mounted a cam­paign to help elect Trump, hack­ing the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee and a Clin­ton cam­paign aide’s emails and spread­ing pro­pa­ganda through fake news sto­ries and so­cial me­dia bots.

But Trump has re­peat­edly un­der­mined their find­ings by voic­ing skep­ti­cism about Rus­sia’s role.

Trevor Pot­ter, the pres­i­dent of the Cam­paign Le­gal Cen­ter and a former Re­pub­li­can chair­man of the Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion, ac­cused the bi­par­ti­san com­mis­sion of be­ing “based on false charges of voter fraud that have al­ready been re­peat­edly dis­proven.”

“Our elec­tions face se­ri­ous con­cerns in­clud­ing at­tempted for­eign cy­ber in­tru­sions, par­ti­san-mo­ti­vated voter sup­pres­sion, and the des­per­ate need for mod­ern­iza­tion of our elec­tion ad­min­is­tra­tion and vot­ing tech­nol­ogy,” he said. “Rather than ad­dress these press­ing is­sues in a bi­par­ti­san man­ner, this pres­i­den­tial com­mis­sion al­ready seems to be blindly fo­cused on man­u­fac­tur­ing ev­i­dence to sup­port its own fore­gone con­clu­sions to fur­ther par­ti­san ob­jec­tives.”

Pence stressed as he opened the meet­ing that the panel was “non­par­ti­san” and that it would be pro­vid­ing a ser­vice to all Amer­i­cans.

“This com­mis­sion had no pre­con­ceived no­tions or pre­or­dained re­sults,” he said. “We’re fact-fin­ders.”

Wednes­day’s meet­ing was largely or­ga­ni­za­tional, with the dis­cus­sion fo­cus­ing on in­tro­duc­tions, out­lin­ing the group’s mis­sion, and how it will pro­ceed mov­ing for­ward. In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Jill Colvin of The As­so­ci­ated Press; by An­drew Har­ris and Shan­non Pet­ty­p­iece of Bloomberg News; and by Brian Fan­ney of the Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette.


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