Election Meltdown—Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap

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S1: Hello, Slate Plus, members.

S2: I’m Dahlia Lithwick and I cover the courts and the law for Slate, and this is the very first bonus episode of our Election Meltdown series. In part one of this series, my temporary co-host and forever friend of the show, Election Law Professor Rick Hasen of UC Irvine, took us through the twists and turns and the internal inconsistencies about the myth of widespread voter fraud. And one of the central characters he spoke to was means Secretary of State Matt Dunlap.

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S3: And Rick, we have tried to give listeners a little window into how BONANOS all of the conduct of that commission was. But this interview actually adds even more to that story, right?

S4: Well, I have to say, Dahlia, you know, I wrote a book about this. And yet listening to Dunlap, my jaw was dropping. It was just it’s a story that is crazy about how Kris Kobach and his compatriots, with the urging of the president, tried to concoct a story about how voter fraud is this major problem, United States, and then how the whole thing collapsed, because Dunlap had the audacity to ask the question, can I be in on the meetings? Can I see some of the documents? So back to the interview. I started by asking Secretary of Dunlap to give us a bit of context. How did you get put on this commission?

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S5: Well, it’s a very strange tale. I’m a former president of the National Association of Secretaries of State, which, you know, you have a lot of these types of governmental professional organizations around the country, including like counsel, state governments, National Conference of State Legislatures. Next year, the National Governors Association will be visiting Maine for their national conference.

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S6: And you know, unlike many of these other organizations, NASS is an incredibly intimate and useful nonpartisan organization where you actually get to know each other. And in that context, you know, although my politics were pretty much diametrically opposed to Secretary COH Box from Kansas. Nonetheless, we got along pretty well. And after, of course, the 2016 presidential election, President elect Trump made the declaration that he would have won the popular vote as well as the Electoral College, if not for those three to five million illegal votes. Well, a state like that has some power behind it. And later, the next year is an early March of 2017. I got a call from Secretary Kobach, who has long been quite strident on election fraud and immigration issues in particular, and undocumented aliens being able to vote in our elections. He’s never had any evidence to prove that, but he’s been on the national stage quite a few times talking about it. And he called me up, said it looks like the president may actually do something with this claim and put together a commission to investigate the integrity of our elections. And would you be interested in being a part of that? And I said, well, I don’t know. I said, I really have plenty to do and I’m not looking for extra work. So I said, let me kick it around. And anyway, the folks in my department were like frantic. Absolutely. They said, you know, if they’re going to put together a commission, we need to be there. If you’re invited. So at length, I agree to be a part of it. And you know, this the narrative of that experience, I can say, is unlike anything I’ve ever been a part of and I’ve been in government service now off and on for 23 years.

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S5: So immediately upon the announcement, I was inundated with mail and e-mail and phone calls from concerned citizens all over the country begging me to resign. Don’t be a part of it. Don’t legitimize this, you know, voter suppression sham. And my response was always like, well, you know, if I’m there, you know, I have a bullhorn in my hand. If something goes on, Ridley, you know, never for a moment understanding what I was actually saying. The commission only had a couple of meetings and the second meeting was in New Hampshire at St. Anselm’s College. And prior to that, Secretary Kobar had put out a fairly strident statement saying that there is rampant voter fraud in Iowa and New Hampshire. City had some flimsy evidence about college students who had registered to vote on Election Day. And yet here they were 10 months later, none of them had gotten new driver’s licenses. And I made the statement at the time that comparing election fraud to an not updating a driver’s license is like saying if you have cash in your wallet is proof that you’d robbed a bank.

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S6: After that, I got very quiet. I didn’t hear much from anybody on the commission. And reporters were after me about what’s happening because I was one of the few people that you would talk to the press and I would uniformly respond. I haven’t heard anything. I don’t know what’s going on. I’m leaving out a lot of detail here, by the way. But this is the high point of it. You know, and finally, I wrote a fairly strongly worded letter to the commission and said people keep asking about this stuff. I just got an e-mail from somebody who’s touting how they’ve been invited to present evidence that the next commission meeting in December. That’s the first word I’ve had of a December meeting. Who are we talking to? What are we researching? And most importantly, what does our schedule. And I cited the court case, Cummock v. Gore, as the basis for my request. And a few days later, about a week later, I got an e-mail from the White House saying, you know, that they were reviewing my request with their legal counsel. And I just scratched my head and I thought, you know, am I not on this commission? Why do I have to go through legal counsel to find out what our schedule is? And then it got kind of weird. I was going to church one day and I got a text message from a reporter asking for my comment on a Washington Post story that the lead researcher for the commission the week before had been arrested on charges in Maryland of possession of child pornography. And to this day, I don’t know what became of the guy. The letter I sent apparently had no impact. And then I got a a Facebook message from an. maintence of mine in Washington who say, can you give me a call? So I call them up and they say, So what’s going on? And they said, well, I have a message for you from a chief of staff of a senator who does not want to be named.

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S5: And my question to you is, do you have a lawyer? And I said, you have a lawyer. And yes, you are probably going to need a lawyer here. And I it’s the only time in the entire narrative that I actually got scared. And they said, you know, look, every talking about what you’re doing with the commission and how you’re the one that’s actually questioning what the commission’s doing. And you probably need lawyers because you’re not able to take on the White House and the Department of Justice on your own. And here’s a name and a phone number you should call. And the name was Melanie Sloan. So me I’d never heard of. And I called her up and I left a message on her answering machine. And I said, you know, I was given your name and number by an anonymous third party. And I think I might be in some kind of trouble. So she called me right back and introduced me to the rest of the American oversight team and the folks that they were working with at Patterson Belknap in New York. And and I thought, well, you know, at length I agreed to do the lawsuit because I thought, I want them to take me seriously. Their response to the lawsuit was utter vitriol and said they looked forward to vigorously defending themselves in court. Some of the other commission members, J. Christian Adams in particular, he didn’t say this, but his organization put out a statement on Newsweek magazine saying that Matt Dunlap was a fresh new face of victim and fragility culture, which is one of my favorite quotes from all this. Others said, I should be embarrassed, I should resign. But all the people have been begging me to resign early on. We’re now saying, hey, stick this out, you’re doing the right thing. And so we filed the lawsuit. We got the preliminary injunction on December 22nd. Twenty seventeen. We had a conference call of all the attorneys. And by the way, I’m not a lawyer. I was a commercial cook for 20 years. So I don’t necessarily always fly in these circles. Had a big conference call. And I asked the question. I said, what do you think the odds are that the president simply dissolves the commission? And ten days later, he did so in January of twenty eighteen, he dissolved the commission. Litigation is still ongoing because we don’t believe that they’ve given us everything. The good news is, is that, you know, you can make policy changes on how our elections are conducted, but you have to do it in the light of day. You can’t do it through rulemaking or through a side door based on a pre configured report. One of the documents we did get from the injunction was a a framework of a report illustrating the frequency of voter fraud. And bear in mind, we had one substantive meeting where we really never we never talked with the scope of the work of the commission. We never talk about what we’re gonna look at or who we’re gonna talk to. But they were writing a pre chaptered report. And that should be pretty scary to a lot of people.

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S7: Well, that’s quite a wild story. It’s an amazing path that this took. I want to go back to a few of the things that you said. First, I guess we have something in common in that it came out that J. Christian Adams on the commission had called me in a email that got released, a raw enemy activist. So I guess we’ve both been on the wrong end of that.

S8: But I wanted this how I came to refer to them as voter fraud, vampire hunters. So, you know, we will give as good as we get.

S9: So now I think it was the lawyers committee tweeted out Kobach. Blackwell, Adams and von Spakovsky, the four horsemen of the voter fraud apocalypse or something like that. And I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit about what it was like to be one of the few Democrats, I’d say really the only prominent Democrat or well-regarded Democrat on the commission. Bill Gardner, the secretary said New Hampshire, as you mentioned, is on the commission, but he was seen with suspicion by Democrats. You weren’t I was critical of you serving on the commission, although now I’m quite glad that you did. Given what you were able to uncover. But I’m just wonder what it was like to sit in the room with people who’ve made it their business. I’ve called them the fraudulent fraud squad, who’ve made it their business to try to put out these myths that in-person voter fraud is rampant, that nonsense and voter fraud is rampant, too, that it’s a major problem facing our democracy.

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S5: Well, it was strange. You know, like I say, I have been in public policy for a long time. And, you know, there’s the old saying that you can have your own opinion, but you can’t have your own facts. And these people certainly had their own facts. You know, after the president had dissolved, the commission, Secretary Kobuk said publicly that, you know, Secretary Dunlap is willfully ignoring the voter fraud happening right under his very nose. And I was asked to respond to that. And I said, if Secretary Kobuk can give me one illustrative case of voter misconduct, I will retract everything I’ve said. I’ve never heard back from them. You know, in the state of Maine and across, you know, I can’t speak for all 50 states, but I can talk a little bit about Maine. And I’ve been the chief elections officer now. You know, this is my going into my 14th year. And, you know, we have sent two suspected cases of voter misconduct to the attorney general’s office for prosecution. And what they discovered with their investigation was what really happened was actually a matter of voter confusion, not voter misconduct. Those two older people who had both recently moved, they were going to the town office to do paperwork.

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S6: They were given a whole stack of stuff. They filled it all out. And part of it included a voter registration card and an absentee ballot application. They’d already voted in their previous communities and then they got the ballots. They had different names on them. They didn’t realize they were doing anything wrong. And that’s really where what we find happening in the conduct of elections is that people, you know, don’t realize they can only vote for one candidate, for example. And that’s where overvotes come from or they are only interested in one race or or, you know, they don’t realize they have to get a notary if they assist somebody in marking their ballot. I mean, and we untangle these things and we make sure that everybody’s on the same page. But the type of misconduct and voter fraud, by the way, is a definable term. It’s it’s someone impersonating another voter to get their ballot. So it has been kind of been used as a catch all throughout all this. Hans von Spakovsky, you know, walks around with a spiral bound document documenting over a thousand cases of documented voter fraud. And they’re real. I mean, these are convictions for people who did things wrong in elections. But what he doesn’t tell you is that they date back to 1948 and some of the very dire stories he tells us, like you think about it. But, Hans, the law was changed. That can’t happen anymore. And it’s it’s just this drive towards controlling who gets to vote. And this is what I’ve learned is the dark, seamy underbelly of elections. When campaigns talk about getting out the vote, they’re talking about getting out their vote, not the other guy’s vote. And American history is checkered with all kinds of colorful episodes around one campaign getting a little bit overenthusiastic and putting out information like, you know, election day for Democrats is on Wednesday. You know, that type of thing. In the 2016 cycle, we saw flyers getting put on the cars of students at Bates College, telling them that if you register to vote, if you’re not from Maine and you register to vote, well, it’s going to be very costly for you because you have to register your car here. You have to pay income taxes here and for an 18 year old kid away from home for the first time. That’s a lot more fear than they need to deal with. And a lot of them don’t vote. They don’t register and they don’t vote at the University of Maine in the same cycle. Someone sent an email to every student on campus saying that if you’re a nonresident student and you register to vote in Maine, then you are jeopardizing your financial aid package. And financial aid is inscrutable enough and it’s just enough to keep kids home. And I think is absolutely a criminal thing to do to try to discourage an American citizen from exercising their lawful and constitutional right to vote. So to see, you know, in the commission and others who are sympathetic with the commission talk about integrity as if it would kind of rhyme with things like barriers. You know, I was on a radio show that election cycle with a fairly conservative sympathies sympathizer of the of the members of the commission. He said, what gets me about this whole process is if you had some kid moving here from Ohio with no investment in a community registering to vote and voting on the local school budget. And my counter point to that to that moment and to people like Hans von Spakovsky and J. Christian Adams and Kris Kobach, is are they are they not American citizens? And do they or do they not have the right to vote? And in my world, we work backwards from there. I don’t put a lot of conditions in front of people in order to exercise their right to vote. You know, and as the most vocal Democrat, I certainly wasn’t the only Democrat. Bill Gardner was in a tough place because, you know, he like me, he’s elected by the legislature. And his legislature was majority Republican. And they were watching him like a hungry hawk hovering over a big fat mousehole, every move he made. And so he had to move much more cautiously than I had to. And in fact, at that New Hampshire meeting when Kobol made that. Strident statement about voter fraud. Bill said, well, that’s not accurate. I’m the one that made the bank robbery analogy, which was what wound up in all the national press. So I got the reputation as being some sort of gladiator for voter rights. The other Democrats, I think, had the same concerns that I did. And in fact, you know, when the lawsuit was being contemplated, I was asked, did I want to ask the other Democrats to be on it? Now, you had to bear in mind the time that we’re in, you know, and when American oversight and Patterson Belknap was asking me about this and really cajoling me to get onto the lawsuit, the staff in my office was absolutely freaked out. Like, you don’t know who these people are. You don’t want to be turned into some sort of tool for some progressive cause that you aren’t really sure who they are, what they’re on about it. Be very careful. And I finally said, look, I could wind up a national laughingstock in all this. And if that’s the case. To quote Henry the fifth that I am enough to do my country loss, if my political career winds up in a smoldering heap, then that’s fine. But why take everybody else down with me? So that’s why I decided to go alone is kind of nerve wracking to go through that. And, you know, occasionally I’d ask myself, you know, am I am I nuts? Am I? Is there something that von Spakovsky sees that I either can’t or won’t see? And the analysis is absolutely not. I mean, they were they are pushing a political agenda. They weren’t trying to improve policy. This was about making it impossible for someone like Donald Trump to ever lose the popular vote. And that’s a different equation altogether. That’s not about free, fair, open and transparent elections. That’s about preordained outcomes. And that’s what that’s what I really opposed.

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S9: I want to come to that in a minute and talk about what the end game was. But before I just want to ask you one more question about the way that the commissioners dealt with each other. I’d love to hear, you know, what that one or one and a half subset beatings was like. You know, we hear about these long gone days of bipartisan commissions working for the common good. Was there any moment that felt like that or was this contentious from the get go?

S5: Well, the White House did a pretty good job at scaring the hell out of us.

S6: And I didn’t really see that at the time. But they warned us against X party communications with each other, like, you know, you’re now on this commission and you’re you’re a being of the whole. So, you know, you’re not supposed to have any substantive discussions with other commissioners unless you’re in a meeting. So we didn’t we didn’t talk to each other at all. Which I think now is intentional. You know, they are trying to keep us away from each other. And in hindsight, never having a conversation. I didn’t dare call Bill Gardner. I’ve known Bill Gardner the whole time. I’ve been secretary of state. And I didn’t dare talk to him about this. And we reflected on that later on. He said, yeah. He said, I we were told not to have conversations. So in that regard, you know, we know now that von Spakovsky and Adams and Kobuk collaborated with each other every single day. In fact, von Spakovsky and Adams and Kobuk collaborated on the drafting of the June 28 letter, which was the notice sent to all the states that they that the commission wanted their voter files. And the two of them had been working with Kobach on this before. They had even been named to the commission. And I have to give a lot of credit and a shout out to Jessica Houston from ProPublica, because she’s the one that uncovered all that was right on my computer. You know, all the time stamps, you know, it it was something that even though it’s so close to you, you don’t see it like we had that conference call on that day at 11:30 in the morning. It only lasts about maybe 45 minutes. The letter came out to the states hours later. It’s been written weeks in advance. So, you know, I think knowing that now, I think if I was ever to be asked, which I doubt I will be asked to be on another commission like this anytime in the near future.

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S8: I would take a much more strident position on internal communications. And a side note to that, when I was, you know, first asked to be on the commission and the president had announced the commission signed the executive order and our names were out there. I got a lot of calls from reporters. This all happened in early May. And now here we are at the end of May. There’s been no movement. And the one of the correspondents for CNN had reached out and said, you know, what’s going on in the commission? I said, well, I haven’t heard any things. Well, if you do, would you let me know? I said, absolutely. Write down her name and phone number. The very next day, I got a call from the senior counsel for the executive off. The vice president and giving me the rundown. You know, it’s like we’re planning an organizational conference call on June twenty eighth and we’re thinking about having our first meeting probably in Washington sometime in the middle of July, which turned out to be July 19th. And as I. Oh, OK, great. Thanks. Oh, yes. I supposed to call this reporter and I pick up the phone, a call reporter. I told a reporter executives told you that they hoped to have an organization conference call by the end of June, first meeting by the middle of July. And they want to get all the number members named by then. That’s not exactly, you know, secret information. Right. So I’m on my way home from the office, on my cell phone rings. And Maine just passed a hands free law. So this is back in the in the golden days when you can still answer your phone when you’re driving down the highway. And it’s the guy from the White House. And he said, I just need to understand our relationship. What do you mean? He said, if I give you information and you’re gonna pick up the phone, call CNN, we’re gonna have a problem. And I apologize. I said, look, it wasn’t a matter of me, pick up the phone, call CNN. They’d asked. The day before about when we were meeting and nobody had said anything about privileged information. And in fact, on that organizational conference call, I said, look, if we’re dealing with anything classified or confidential or privileged, you need to tell us, because as I’m sitting here at my computer, I have 10 media requests to call people after I get off this call. So, you know, I can’t. I don’t operate in the dark. That’s not the way I work. My work is owned by the people of the state of Maine, and they deserve to know what I’m working on. And I think that made me an outcast from the very beginning. And there’s a woman that worked in our office when she worked with us. She was also vice chair of the Democratic Party. And we used to have some rousing conversations. And she’d call me up and she’d say, you know, they’re talking about you all over Washington. And I can’t even imagine what they’re saying. She said, I think what they’re saying is that they underestimated you because they probably thought, here’s a secretary of state from a small state.

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S6: He’s not an attorney. You know, he has this affable reputation for being nonpartisan. He’ll never give us trouble. And then I gave them trouble. And they didn’t they. Honest to God, they didn’t know what to do with me. And we saw that the e-mail traffic, you know, when I when I filed that lawsuit, you know, one of the senior advisers in the wives, I think it might have even been Bolten. I don’t know. But send an e-mail to Kobuk and the entire e-mail was WITF, you know. They didn’t know what to do. They didn’t. And frankly, if they’d sent me a box full of three ring binders filled with recipes for chicken pot pie, I would’ve been happy. Like they they’re sending me information. But instead, I just got nothing but silence.

S8: And when they did speak, they were nasty about it, which did not discourage me at all. I’m used to people being nasty with me. I’ve been in politics for a long time. So we just kept going, just kept going. And as you can say, you know where where it ended.

S10: So you mentioned about the letter that was drafted asking the states for information about their voter files. And I want you to talk a little bit about what the end game was here. You know, assuming that you and others didn’t try to sue the commission to comply with the various rules that apply to advisory commissions and rules related to openness and paperwork, what were they going to do with that voter file? What do you think they were trying to accomplish? What would have been. You said it would have led to the election of candidates like Donald Trump under the popular vote. I’m wonder if could just spell this out a little more in terms of where you think it was going?

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S6: Well, I don’t think they’re everyone get what they wanted, but the golden goose that Koba was after was being able to compare state voter files to look for people who were registered in more than one state, which, by the way, is not a crime. It’s an administrative oversight. Yeah. And this is one of the gaps of the Help America Vote Act was that it never discussed interstate communications between elections officials about people who are registered to vote, say, in Arizona, and then move to Kentucky. You know, there’s no real easy way to deal with that. But Kobach saw that as a smoking gun and he wanted to find as many people registered in multiple jurisdictions as was possible. And as proof of of a voter fraud. That’s only fraud if you vote twice. That’s you know, that’s a very, very rare circumstance. But, you know, in terms of the of the actual in game, I think what they were really looking for was any type of evidentiary basis, even if something that was as fluffed up as that, to have sort of universal laws around things like voter I.D., voter registration deadlines. I mean, they’re all over the place in this country. Maine does not have a voter registration deadline. We have election day registration. You know, so maybe a dozen states have that. Some states have deadlines of as much as two or three weeks. And this is where the real concern comes down around things like purging voter lists, because if you take someone’s name off of a voter list and they don’t know their names been removed and they show up at the polls and you have a registration deadline, well, then guess what? They don’t vote. The issues around one of the things that we found in the in the documents that the commission had asked for voter files, they asked like the state of Texas in particular, to pass out their voter file by Hispanic names. No explanation. But there obviously that raised a lot of red flags with folks on the back end of that. It has some racist overtones to it. Now, you know, when you talk about things like the Federal Advisory Committee Act, they never explain to us how the act worked. You know, it was it was, you know, Harry Santic at Patterson Belknap who asked me the question, do you know how that act works? And I said, like they told us about record keeping requirements. There’s a good reason why they didn’t want us to know the rest of it. Because, you know, there’s a very transparent act is supposed to bring in a broad spectrum of people from across the political spectrum to bring an input as to how changes in law should be crafted. So I think, you know, the endgame. To your point was to have, you know, all these voter files and you’d have how many Matt Dunlap’s registered all over the country. Oh, I’m at Dunlap’s. Clearly registered to vote in Washington state and Missouri and Florida and Maine and Virginia. We need to do something about this. And with what’s the obvious easy solution? Having national voter I.D. now, a lot of states have voter I.D.. Maine is not one of them. And what we find is that voter I.D. just keeps people from voting as it does. If you have a voter I.D. requirement. You know, the that the assumption is everybody has a state issued I.D.. Well, not everybody does. You know, people in nursing homes, you have college students who are, you know, pretty indigent. They move around a lot. Sometimes they they have a you know, they they come to the university to Maine from, you know, New Hampshire, and then they go to work after college in Tennessee. And then they may be there for a while, then go to California, all the while carrying their New Hampshire driver’s license because they never permanently move. They don’t or they think they’re going to be temporary. You know, the election law in Maine, it stipulates that you register to vote where you believe you’re going to go home tonight. You know, and everything else after that is chance. The voter I.D. anticipates that you are permanent where you’re going to be for ever. And a lot of people aren’t willing to make that commitment. And so, therefore, they don’t register. And I think there’s some false assumptions about what types of voters you’re talking about. I think people like von Spakovsky and Adams assume they’re all Democrats, but college campuses where they like to pick on college kids have just as many Republicans as they do Democrats. So they went up hurting everybody and partisan concerns aside. I believe our job is to make it easier for people to exercise their franchise, not screen who doesn’t get to vote.

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S11: I wonder if Kobach was also interested not just in enhanced voter I.D. laws, but also to change the National Voter Registration Act, the Motor Voter Law to require people to produce papers, documentary proof of citizenship before they vote. An issue that’s been litigated in Kansas. And I I want to turn a little bit to two before we conclude here took to the aftermath of the commission. Kobach lost that case, although it’s on appeal. He lost the commission. But then he said that DHS would keep investigating and he was going to be part of that. And DHS said that that wasn’t going to happen to your knowledge. What’s happens since then with with the administration’s push on this? And just more generally, this push against phantom voter fraud?

S6: Well, I think I think actually nothing’s happened with it. I think it speaks a little bit to the president’s naivete. I mean, the president and I’m not picking on Donald Trump.

S12: You know, having never been elected to public office and then suddenly being elected president, the United States is kind of jumping into the deep into the pool, don’t you think? And, you know, I think he has some of his own world views which are colored by his own upbringing, experience, prejudices, whatever. And when he talked about illegal voting going on, which I think was more or less of an excuse as to why he lost the popular vote, I think his ego was speaking there. Something like Kobar comes and jumps in his lap and said, I’m your boy. You know, because this is what I’ve been working on my whole career. And I think Trump probably looked at him as some kind of an expert surrounded by other experts. And so I’m just going to turn this over to the experts. And then he found out they weren’t experts, they were charlatans. They were they were phonies. And what they were really after was a partisan advantage. Not even for Republicans, but just for conservatives like themselves. I work with a lot of Republicans. And I I you know, I see the same spectrum in the Republican Party that I see in the Democratic Party. So I don’t want to paint Republicans with a broad brush. But, you know, the anti-immigrant no nothing movement is still very much alive in this country.

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S8: And that’s they were really after, you know, for want of a better way to put it. Call it what it is. I think they’re after people of color as much as anything. They’re after minorities. Anybody who might vote for a Democrat, the elderly, college students, you know, it’s that’s the only thing that seems to make any sense at all. And they weren’t going to get what they wanted. So I think the president moved on and. Chrystia Kobach lost his race for governor. He did not become secretary of homeland security like he wanted to be. He did not take over the voter fraud investigation. Homeland security and homeland security, to my knowledge, is doing nothing with this. So it’s a you know, from my own perspective, it was really weird. I would tell people I was walking through an airport in Saint Lewis and this perfect stranger walks up to me and says, Are you Matt Dunlap from Maine? Thank you for what you did to protect our right to vote. And I tell people, I’m not Rosa Parks. I just asked for our schedule. That’s why I did. And when I saw that request, I didn’t even see the request for the voter file. I just heard about it. And how I heard about it was an absolute firestorm of anger that descended upon my office. And I went looking for the letters. What did they do? And it wasn’t. What was in the letter? People did not want the voter file being sent to Washington where unknown people were gonna be looking at their voter registration for for political purposes. They felt very strongly about that. And it really gave me a lot of hope about this country. We didn’t send the voter file because our law said it had to be kept confidential and the commission was gonna make it public. And then they later said that they were going to make it confidential.

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S6: And I said, under what authority from Congress do you have to declare something to be not a public record? So we didn’t send at that time either. You know, it is like they were grasping to get what they wanted and never knew quite how to go about. It is very, very clumsy.

S11: Well, I suppose we should thank goodness for small things like that. That it was not more effective. Let me ask you, in closing, you’ve painted Trump as kind of naive about all of this. Yet he has been tweeting out and making statements about unsubstantiated statements about massive voter fraud and suggesting that it’s happening in communities of color. Are you worried about what that’s going to portend for the 2020 elections? What are your chief concerns going into 2020? Is. Is this rhetoric something that bothers you?

S12: I think they’ll the rhetoric is incendiary and very damaging. You know, people care. They care about their country. They care about their role as citizen legislators in an election when a figure of authority like Trump or our former governor Le Page, who did much the same, comes out and says, the election’s rigged. And it’s not going to matter. People take that seriously and say, well, it doesn’t matter and stay home, which is what they want. Right. They want those people to stay home because then only the true believers get out and vote and they are going to vote for them. Yes, I do worry about these things. I think in terms of the actual mechanics of the election, I think people have nothing to worry about. You know, like in Maine, you know, we use paper ballots and felt pens. You know, there’s nothing for the Russians to really attack there. But the real damage is what we do to ourselves. And I think if nothing has come out of the investigations around Russian tampering with our elections, along with the Iranians and Chinese and and North Koreans, is that people have learned to be a bit more skeptical about what they hear on the news media and editorial pages on political stages.

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S8: And they think to themselves what they want and they vote what they they vote for what they want. They vote against what they don’t. And as long as we can do that, then people like von Spakovsky, Adams, Kobuk and Trump can say whatever they want and the voters will always have the final say.

S4: Well, Matt Dunlap, Maine secretary of state, thank you so much for joining us. I appreciate it. My pleasure.

S3: So Secretary Dunlap raised a whole bunch of issues there that we’re going to try to be covering over the next few weeks. How competent our election administrators, foreign meddling in U.S. elections in 2016 and foreign meddling. This time around. And is it ever okay to talk about elections being stolen? But, Rick, what are your crucial takeaways from that conversation?

S4: Well, the thing I took away more than anything else from talking to Matt Dunlap was how close we came to a commission that could have put out a report that half the country would have believed that said that voter fraud is a major problem. The only thing that’s saving us from the malevolence of the Trump administration, it comes to voting is their incompetence and just the stories of how Kobach. Time after time couldn’t follow the basic rules about how advisory commissions were supposed to work. All the technicalities of how government agencies have to function, that’s what saved us. And it was Dunlap who came in. You know, I had criticized him for joining this commission, but in the end, thank goodness he did, because it was his work that actually led to discovering a lot of what was going on behind the scenes. And it was very, very ugly.

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S3: This has been in equal parts, edifying and terrifying. Thank you, Rick, for joining us.

S4: It was so great to be able to share more of the conversation with Matt Dunlap. It really is jaw dropping.

S13: So that’s a wrap for this exclusive plus edition of Amicus. Thank you so much for listening. And if you would like to get in touch, our e-mail is Amicus at Slate.com. You can always find us at Facebook dot com slash Annika’s podcast. Today’s show was produced by Sara Bermingham. Gabriel Roth is editorial director of Slate podcast. June Thomas is senior managing producer of Slate podcasts. And we will be back with part two of the election meltdown next week, looking at how incompetence and lost ballots can actually be a serious threat to confidence in our elections. With a very close look at Michigan, a key state in 2016 and kind of important this time around to.