The nonpartisan organization Common Cause issued a report Thursday alleging lack of transparency and excessive partisanship of the federal commission studying U.S. elections and led by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Vice President Mike Pence.
President Donald Trump, who maintains fraud threw the popular vote in the 2016 election to Democrat Hillary Clinton, established the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity in May. It has been under assault by voting-rights groups, and Common Cause joined the chorus.
“Instead of focusing on solutions to modernize our elections and help people vote, President Trump and some of the members of the commission are spreading lies and trying to intimidate voters,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of Common Cause. “That’s not how taxpayer-funded presidential commissions should work.”
Common Cause, based in Washington, D.C., asserted the commission was stacked with people who have worked to suppress voting and that the panel’s findings would be used to slash voter eligibility and turnout for partisan gain.
Kobach, a champion of laws requiring proof of citizenship for registration and presentation of a photograph identification when voting, said in a statement the “talent, experience and expertise of my fellow members of the commission is truly impressive.”
He said the commission would quantify threats to fair elections and offer recommendations for securing future elections. The final report will be shared with the public after submitted to Trump, he said.
“There’s been lingering doubt among many Americans about the integrity and fairness of elections,” said Kobach, de facto head of the commission. “We owe it to the American people to take a hard, dispassionate look at the subject.”
He said evidence existed in Kansas and other states of double registration and voting, but extent of the problem of illegal voting is unknown.
“This commission will have the ability to find answers to questions that have never been fully answered before and to conduct research that has never been conducted before. And that research will not be buried,” he said.
In the past, academic research supported the conclusion election fraud was a minuscule issue in the United States.
In a statement, Pence said commissioners would approach their work without preconceived notions or preordained outcomes.
“Our duty is to go where the facts lead and to provide the president and the American people with a report on our findings that can be used to strengthen the American people’s confidence in our electoral system,” Pence said.
Voting-rights advocates and some state election officials have resisted the commission’s requests for data on about 200 million registered voters.
Common Cause said three previous presidential election commissions had been chaired by both a Democrat and Republican, while the Trump panel is driven by the GOP’s Pence and Kobach.
The organization complained the Trump commission failed to abide by basic guidelines of open government by not opening meetings to the public and by releasing documents only after engaging in litigation. So far, Common Cause said, the commission had only succeeded in generating “hyped-up fear of illegal voting.”