More than three months after President Trump vowed to investigate unfounded claims that last November’s election was tainted by as many as 5 million fraudulent votes, the White House is expected to announce the creation of a presidential commission led by Vice President Mike Pence to investigate voter fraud, a Trump administration official tells NPR.
But despite the high profile announcement, establishing the commission appeared to be a low priority for the White House. None of the likely participants had been contacted by the administration when NPR reported on the issue in March. This expected official announcement comes just two days after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican, is expected to be named the commission’s vice chair and his participation will likely be controversial. Kobach has long claimed that there’s widespread illegal voting by noncitizens in the U.S., despite the lack of evidence. He has prosecuted only a handful of voting fraud cases in his state.
Kobach has headed a campaign to require that voters show proof of citizenship when registering, something voting rights groups have fought in court, claiming that it’s discriminatory and unnecessary.
According to a person familiar with the commission, other participants will include Democrats and Republicans involved in election administration at the state level. At least three additional secretaries of state are expected to be involved, Bill Gardner of New Hampshire, Connie Lawson of Indiana and Matthew Dunlap of Maine.
The commission is expected also to be charged with looking into other irregularities and problems in the voting process, including duplicate and outdated voter registrations. It will be tasked with reporting its findings sometime next year.
Voting rights activists are concerned that the commission will be used to justify more state legislation to impose restrictions on voting, such as strict identification requirements.
“President Trump is trying to create a distraction from actual threats to our democracy, such as ongoing voter suppression and Russia’s interference in the 2016 election,” said Kristen Clarke of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights.
Many state election officials are also worried the commission will divert attention from other serious concerns, such as aging equipment and the threat of hacking. U.S. intelligence officials have said they fully expect that Russians will attempt to hack future U.S. elections, after their attempts to influence last year’s vote.
Numerous independent investigations have concluded that voter fraud exists, but is extremely limited in scope.
NPR’s Tamara Keith contributed reporting to this story.
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