President Trump is likely to sign an executive order Thursday creating a commission on voter fraud headed by Vice President Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. From ABC:
The commission, which will include Republicans and Democrats, will be tasked with studying “vulnerabilities” in U.S. voting systems and potential effects on “improper voting, fraudulent voter registrations and fraudulent voting,” according to one official with knowledge of the announcement.
In the aftermath of the 2016 election, Trump claimed widespread voter fraud explained why former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emerged with nearly 3 million more popular votes. To date, neither Trump nor his team has provided evidence to substantiate the claims, but they have promised an investigation.
Kobach, who has come under fire for his role in crafting harsh state immigration laws like Arizona’s SB 1070, and for his ties to groups affiliated with white nationalists, spent the early days of Trump’s presidency defending Trump’s repeated claims that millions had voted illegally in November’s election. Presumably the commission aims to finally come up with the evidence, which doesn’t exist. On Wednesday, Kobach was ordered to hand over documents (pictured above) from a meeting with Trump earlier this year to the ACLU as part of a voting rights lawsuit against him.
ABC reports that the secretaries of state of Ohio, Maine, New Hampshire, and Indiana are among the people being considered for appointment to the commission. ABC also reports that the commission will study voter suppression.
In January, Richard Hasen outlined the characteristics of a fair and sensible voter fraud commission for Slate. Such a commission, he argued, should be bipartisan, comprised of people with experience administering elections, and tasked with investigating voter suppression as well:
Baseless allegations of voter fraud hurt our democracy. You would think after the Department of Justice under President George W. Bush spent five years investigating voter fraud with nothing to show for it, the voter fraud canard would have been put to bed years ago. This call for a major investigation, if done fairly, could finally put the issue to bed. Let’s not fool ourselves into believing President Trump would order a fair investigation. But if he doesn’t, we will need a shadow investigation to counter whatever a Trump commission might put out to support its boss’ baseless conclusions.
Jamelle Bouie reiterated the improbability of a fair investigation in February and placed the campaign against alleged fraud within the context of Republican racism. “With Jeff Sessions, an avowed opponent of liberal voting laws, in place at the Department of Justice, and with Kris Kobach, a prolific architect of restrictive voter laws, in an advisory position within the administration, Trump’s constant claims of voter fraud aren’t just the special pleading of someone who craves the affirmation of a popular vote victory,” he wrote. “They reflect an actual agenda, aimed at eroding the right to vote for millions of Americans.”
ABC reports that the commission will issue its findings in 2018.
Update May 11, 2:46 PM: The text of Trump’s executive order has been released. The commission will be chaired by Vice President Pence and could have as many as 15 members that may include people with experience adminstrating elections or with “voter integrity efforts.” The mandate laid out for the commission focuses on studying fraud but also broadly encompasses any “laws, rules, policies, activities, strategies, and practices” that undermine confidence in federal elections. The order does not make any stipulations about the partisan composition of the commission.