Trump launches commission to in­ves­ti­gate voter fraud

South Florida Times - - FRONT PAGE - Don­ald Trump By KEN THOMAS

WASH­ING­TON - Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der Thurs­day launch­ing a com­mis-sion to re­view al­leged voter fraud and voter sup-pres­sion, build­ing upon his un­sub­stan­ti­ated claims that mil­lions of peo­ple voted il­le­gally in the 2016 elec­tion.

The White House said the pres­i­dent's “Ad­vi­sory Commission on Elec­tion In­tegrity” would ex­am­ine al­le­ga­tions of im­proper vot­ing and fraud­u­lent voter reg­is­tra­tion in states and across the na­tion. Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence will chair the panel and Kansas Sec­re­tary of State Kris Kobach will be vice chair of the commission, which will re­port back to Trump by 2018.

“We can't take for granted the in­tegrity of the vote,” Pence said in a state­ment. He said the commission would “re­view ways to strengthen the in­tegrity of elec­tions in or­der to pro­tect and pre­serve the prin­ci­ple of one per­son, one vote be­cause the in­tegrity of the vote is the foun­da­tion of our democ­racy.”

Trump has al­leged, with­out ev­i­dence, that 3 mil­lion to 5 mil­lion peo­ple voted il­le­gally in his 2016 elec­tion against Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton. He has vowed since the start of his ad­min­is­tra­tion to in­ves­ti­gate voter fraud, a process that has been de­layed for months.

Last Novem­ber, Kobach said he sup­ported Trump's as­ser­tions that he would have won the pop­u­lar vote if “mil­lions” of peo­ple hadn't voted il­le­gally.

Democrats and vot­ing rights groups called the panel a sham, ar­gu­ing there are few, if any, cred­i­ble al­le­ga­tions of sig­nif­i­cant voter fraud. They warned that the panel would be used to lay the ground­work for stricter vot­ing re­quire­ments that could make it more dif­fi­cult for poor and mi­nor­ity vot­ers to ac­cess the bal­lot box.

“The sole pur­pose of this commission is to prop­a­gate a myth and to give en­cour­age­ment to Repub­li­can gov­er­nors and state leg­is­la­tors to in­crease voter sup­pres­sion,” said Ver­mont Sen. Bernie San­ders, who chal­lenged Clin­ton for the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion.

Se­nate Demo­cratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said it was a “clear front for con­strict­ing the ac­cess to vote to poor Ameri- cans, older Amer­i­cans, and - above all - African Amer­i­cans and Lati­nos.'

White House spokes­woman Sarah Huck­abee San­ders said the commission would be bi­par­ti­san and com­posed of about a dozen mem­bers, in­clud­ing cur­rent and former state elec­tion of­fi­cials and ex­perts.

“The pres­i­dent is com­mit­ted to the thor­ough re­view of reg­is­tra­tion and vot­ing is­sues in fed­eral elec­tions and that's ex­actly what this commission is tasked with do­ing,” San­ders said.

The panel will aim to en­sure con­fi­dence in the in­tegrity of fed­eral elec­tions while look­ing at vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties in the sys­tem and the pos­si­bil­ity of im­proper vot­ing and fraud­u­lent voter reg­is­tra­tion and vot­ing, of­fi­cials said.

The commission will in­clude two Repub­li­cans, former Ohio Sec­re­tary of State Ken Black­well and In­di­ana Sec­re­tary of State Con­nie Law­son, and two Democrats, New Hamp­shire Sec­re­tary of State Bill Gard­ner and Maine Sec­re­tary of State Matthew Dun­lap.

Christy McCormick, a former Jus­tice De­part­ment at­tor­ney and a mem­ber of the U.S. Elec­tion As­sis­tance Commission, will also be on the panel, and others will be named soon.

Trump re­peat­edly al­leged that the elec­tion sys­tem was “rigged” dur­ing his cam­paign and later ar­gued that mas­sive, wide­spread fraud kept him from win­ning the pop­u­lar vote. Trump won the pres­i­dency with an Elec­toral Col­lege vic­tory even though Clin­ton re­ceived nearly 3 mil­lion more votes.

Vot­ing ex­perts and many law­mak­ers, in­clud­ing House Over­sight Com­mit­tee Chair­man Jason Chaf­fetz, have said they haven't seen any­thing to sug­gest that mil­lions of peo­ple voted il­le­gally. The Utah Repub­li­can said his com­mit­tee won't be in­ves­ti­gat­ing voter fraud.

But in a lunch meet­ing with sen­a­tors in Fe­bru­ary, Trump said he and former Repub­li­can Sen. Kelly Ay­otte would have won in New Hamp­shire if not for vot­ers bused in from out of state. New Hamp­shire of­fi­cials have said there was no ev­i­dence of ma­jor voter fraud in the state.

Michael Wald­man, pres­i­dent of the New York-based Bren­nan Cen­ter for Jus­tice, said the commission was formed to “find proof of the pres­i­dent's ab­surd claim” about mil­lions of peo­ple vot­ing il­le­gally. He noted that it came in the af­ter­math of Trump's fir­ing of FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey on Tues­day.


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