For the first time since its inception, President Trump’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity met publicly.
The bipartisan commission includes 5 former and current secretaries of state.
The group has come under great scrutiny from the mainstream media for asking states to provide voter data to determine, among other things, how many fraudulent votes were cast in the 2016 election.
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According to the group’s chairman, Vice President Mike Pence, 30 states have agreed to give publicly-available information to the commission.
President Trump spoke at the first public meeting:
“If any state doesn’t want to share information, one has to ask what are they worried about? This is going to be a very transparent process, and the commission will follow the facts wherever they lead.” - President Donald Trump
California has led the charge against the commission’s requests for voter data. Secretary of State Alex Padilla issued a statement that read:
“I will not provide sensitive voter information to a commission that has already inaccurately passed judgment that millions of Californians voted illegally. California's participation would only serve to legitimize the false and already debunked claims of massive voter fraud made by the President and Vice President.” - California Secretary of State Alex Padilla
Padilla also criticized the appointment of Kris Kobach, who has had his share of difficulties as secretary of state in Kansas.
"The president's appointment of Kobach sends a clear and ominous message. His role as vice chair is proof that the goal of the commission is to enact policies that will result in the disenfranchisement of American citizens," Padilla noted.
For his part in the public meeting, Kobach said:
“The commission study will examine threats to integrity of elections, quantify those threats and share information of report to the public. Election integrity isn’t a new issue, the concerns go back decades. We will take a hard, dispassionate look at the subject.”
On January 6, 2017, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson issued a statement noting that election infrastructure should be designated as a subsector of the existing Government Facilities critical infrastructure sector.
That last-minute Obama administration move has, according to the commission, caused issues.
Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson is on the commission. Lawson talked about frustrations with the Department of Homeland Security.
“We need to have better communication with DHS and reexamine that determination. Hearing about the commissions intentions in the media, doesn’t help our process, nor solve the issue of election fraud for the American people,” she said.
Hans Von Spakovsky, a former Justice Department official who sparked legal battles over voting laws during the George W. Bush administration, had the most pointed comments regarding criticism of the commission.
Spakovsky said, “The scurrilous charges that have been made are reprehensible and need to end. This commission is fully transparent and is dedicated to a bipartisan service to the American people. We will let the facts lead the path.”
For now, it appears that path will be the courtroom. At least seven lawsuits are now challenging the commission’s conduct, its transparency, and even its reason for being. And two more complaints have been filed with federal agencies against two of the commission’s 12 members.