(CN) – The American Civil Liberties Union on Monday sued the Trump administration over what it says is a lack of transparency by the commission the president established to ferret out claims of voter fraud.
The 31-page lawsuit filed in Washington claims the commission failed to comply with the Federal Advisory Committee Act, a measure intended to ensure public accountability of all advisory committees.
“The commission held its first meeting without notice or making it open to the public. This process is cloaked in secrecy, raising serious concerns about its credibility and intent. What are they trying to hide?” said Theresa Lee, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, in a written statement.
Federal law requires commission meetings be open to the public with timely notice provided, allowing for in-person attendance, and that written records be made available to the public. The commission must also adopt measures to ensure that its work is not inappropriately influenced by special interests or the president himself.
Despite being elected president, Trump has never gotten over losing the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million votes. Since the election, he has repeatedly claimed Clinton’s margin of victory in the popular vote count is entirely attributable to votes cast by those ineligible to do so.
Trump created the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity by executive order in March, and in the process asked Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to lead it.
Last week, Kobach touched off a political firestorm by attempting to solicit detailed information on every registered voter in the United States.
He has not divulged how the commission would use — or protect — that sensitive information, which includes names, addresses, birth dates, political affiliation, and voting history.
On Monday, the commission paused its attempted collection of that data in response to another lawsuit, this one filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center. The EPIC alleges that the commission is violating the E-Government Act of 2002, which requires federal agencies to establish adequate data protections before collecting personal information using information technology.
The commission ran afoul of the ACLU last month when, by its own admission, it held its first meeting by phone without notifying the public as required by law.
The commission is scheduled to hold its next meeting on July 19, and stream the proceedings live on the internet.
“Our election process must be secure, fair, and transparent,” said Sophia Lin Lakin, another a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project in a written statement. “Yet the commission is conducting its work deep in the shadows, making it alarmingly suspect. The commission is legally required to conduct the people’s business in the light of day.”
The ACLU seeks a determination that the commission violated the law, and an order compelling it to be more transparent in the future.