Policy Groups Fight for Records on Trump Voter Commission

MANHATTAN (CN) – President Donald Trump has directed the government to investigate his theories on voter fraud but is withholding public records on the commission, two policy groups claim in a federal complaint.

Filed on Monday in Manhattan, the 18-page complaint is led by New York University Law School’s Brennan Center for Justice and Washington, D.C.-based Protect Democracy Project.

This past May, the groups filed joint requests with the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, as well as the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, for records on the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.

Despite statutory deadlines, none of the agencies have shed light on the status of the requests.

Trump issued established the commission in question via Executive Order 13799 on May 11.

The Commission is chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach serving as the commission’s vice-chair.

Though ordained with the mission of promoting fair and honest federal elections, many critics have questioned the commission’s respect of data privacy, and whether the commission’s true focus is voter suppression.

“Because the Commission is proceeding with its effort to collect state voter roll data, and because other actions by the Commission that may lead to increased voter disenfranchisement or voter suppression may also be imminent, it is imperative that the public be informed immediately of the commission’s intentions and processes in order for the public to formulate and communicate their views to state officials, Congress, and President Trump’s commission,” Monday’s complaint states.

Trump’s commission includes include Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation , J. Christian Adams of the Public Interest Legal Foundation and former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, each of whom have histories of promoting voter suppression, according to the complaint.

The complaint called von Spakovsky “one of the leading figures in the country in promoting policies to reduce access to voting by claiming widespread voter fraud.”

Similarly, the complaint claims that Adams and his Public Interest Legal Foundation “works to promote aggressive purges of voter rolls and promotes the idea that non-citizens vote in large numbers.”

Having lost the popular vote to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, President Trump has a history of making unfounded claims of rampant voter fraud in U.S. elections. On Nov. 27, 2016, he tweeted: “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.”  

Trump told congressional leaders in the days just after his inauguration, that 3 million to 5 million “illegals” voted in the 2017 federal election. Three days later President Trump tweeted that he would be “asking for a major investigation into VOTER FRAUD.”

Jenner Block attorney Jeremy Creelan filed Monday’s FOIA complaint for the Brennan Center and Protect Democracy Project. Creelan is joined by Laurence Schwartztol and Wendy Weiser, in-house counsel for the Brennan Center and the Protect Democracy Project, respectively.

Earlier this year, The American Civil Liberties Union sued Trump, Pence and the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity for violations of the Federal Advisory Committee Act. 

The ACLU’s complaint claims that the commission was “established to provide “a veneer of legitimacy” to Trump’s false claim that he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton because millions of people cast illegal votes.”

Representatives from the federal agency defendants did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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