After issuing an executive order late Wednesday closing his commission to investigate voter fraud, President Donald Trump now stresses the need for more voter identification and has tasked the Department of Homeland Security with ensuring the integrity of elections.
The White House so far is not saying that the president will call for a national voter ID system. But his tweets Thursday seemed to suggest so:
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders didn’t have a decisive answer Thursday on whether the president favored a national voter ID system.
“We are still going to continue to review the best way forward,” Sanders said in a response to a question from The Daily Signal during the press briefing.
“Just because the election commission is no longer in existence, we are going to send the preliminary findings from the commission to the Department of Homeland Security and make determinations on the best way forward,” she said.
Asked why the Department of Homeland Security instead of the Justice Department, which traditionally investigates voting irregularities, is taking up the matter, Sanders told The Daily Signal: “That was the agency that was best determined by the administration, and we are moving forward and letting them take over the process.”
Vice President Mike Pence was chairman of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was vice chairman. The president appointed the bipartisan commission, also known as the Voter Fraud Commission, in May.
Kobach, a Republican, has been a longtime advocate of voter ID, but will not advise the Department of Homeland Security going forward, a spokesman said.
“At the president’s direction, the department continues to work in support of state governments who are responsible for administering elections, with efforts focused on securing elections against those who seek to undermine the election system or its integrity,” Tyler Houlton, the department’s acting press secretary, told The Daily Signal in an email. “Mr. Kobach is not advising the department on this matter.”
The commission’s work was besieged from the outset by lawsuits and uncooperative state officials, according to the White House and some commission members.
“Foes of election integrity lost their seat at the table,” J. Christian Adams, president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation and another Republican commission member, said of the panel’s folding in a written statement Wednesday.
“Now the important work of improving the integrity of the election process will be done by people who believe in election integrity, not by those who seek to preserve vulnerabilities in the system,” Adams said.
Adams, a former Justice Department lawyer, continued:
Over the years, demonstrable and empirical data has been developed showing noncitizen voting, double voting, and defects in the election system that no credible observer could deny. Some news outlets and activists have decided to ignore those facts, as if they do not exist.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of well-funded groups, activist academics, and individuals who are not credible who sought to undermine and sabotage the commission’s work. They may delight today in the dissolution of the commission, but before long they’ll realize that advocates of election integrity have more stamina, support, and perseverance than they realize.
The White House commission was made up of seven Republicans and five Democrats. Among the Democrats was Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, who sued the commission while he was a member, accusing it of not sharing information.
Despite dissolving the commission, Dunlap said, the Trump administration still will have to honor a federal court order to provide him with information.
“I didn’t want to go to court,” Dunlap told The Daily Signal in a phone interview. “All I wanted, honest to God, was to participate and get an answer to all of my questions.”
Dunlap said he is concerned with the Department of Homeland Security’s role.
“How many driver’s license has Homeland Security issued?” he asked rhetorically. “None. How many elections has Homeland Security run? None.”
“I was alarmed when the Obama administration classified election administration as critical infrastructure, that gives the federal government so much leeway,” Dunlap said. “Part of the goal for some people has been a national voter ID law.”
The White House commission asked every top state election official for basic information on voting in his or her state, but at least 18 states and the District of Columbia refused to cooperate. Many of those states had particular problems with voter fraud in the past, as The Daily Signal has reported.
Numerous liberal groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Brennan Center for Justice, sued to stop the commission from doing its work. One group, American Oversight, helped represent Dunlap in his lawsuit against the administration.
Commission member Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, said state officials blocked the panel from finding the truth.
“Unjustified refusal from some states to work with us and dozens of meritless lawsuits; those two things made it next to impossible for the commission to do its work,” von Spakovsky told The Daily Signal in a phone interview Thursday. “They don’t want the American people to find the truth about [voter] fraud and errors and double voting.”
Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson, a Republican who is chairwoman of the National Association of Secretaries of State, also was a commission member.
“We do not have a comment or anything further to add on the topic of the election commission,” Lawson spokeswoman Valerie Warycha said.