President Trump pushed back Wednesday against critics who say his Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity was created to support his claim of widespread voter fraud, with the chief executive questioning the intent of some states withholding voter data.
The commission’s first public meeting Wednesday comes after several lawsuits were filed, alleging it lacks transparency and violated federal law. Democrats say the commission will suppress voters.
At least four groups sued earlier this month after the commission’s vice chair, Kris W. Kobach, asked states to turn over voter data including names, partial Social Security numbers, birthdays, political party affiliations, military status and other public information. The lawsuits allege the commission put privacy rights at risk. The commission has stopped gathering the data until a judge resolves the matter.
But on Wednesday Mr. Trump said at least 30 states are willing to hand over the information, and he wonders why a state would be worried about disclosing its voter data.
“This issue is very important to me because through the campaign, and even after, people would come up to me and express their concerns about voter inconsistencies and irregularities which they saw,” Mr. Trump said. “All public officials have a profound responsibility to protect the integrity of the vote.”
Mr. Kobach said the commission will look into the accuracy of voter rolls, fraudulent voting, voting by mail, cybersecurity issues and voter intimidation.
Judge Alan King, a probate judge in Jefferson County, Alabama, who serves as one of the 12 members on the commission, stressed the need for the nation to keep up with technology.
“These voting machines are outdated,” he said.
Mr. Trump created the commission in May through an executive order, stating its intended purpose is to “study the registration and voting processes used in federal elections” to identify vulnerabilities and improve election integrity.
Vice President Mike Pence, who chairs the commission, tried to fend off critics of the panel by stressing its intent to promote free and honest elections.
“This bipartisan group will perform a truly nonpartisan service to the American people,” he said. “This will be a transparent and open process.”
The commission plans to have four meetings within the next nine months.
Ahead of its first public meeting, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Voting Rights Commission, which was created to combat the administration’s investigation, said it will be working to give more people the opportunity to vote.
“We hear this nonsensical myth of voter fraud. It is not happening,” said Michael Blake, vice chair at the DNC, during a news conference Wednesday. “We will not allow them to move forward in a way that will hurt our communities.”
Democratic Rep. Terri A. Sewell of Alabama called the president’s commission a “sham” and said she’s worried it will target people of color.
“We will be watching, but the American people should be watching as well,” she said.
And Tuesday, members of the Congressional Black Caucus and several House Democrats penned a letter to Mr. Pence asking him to remove Mr. Kobach from the commission following his request for states to turn over voter data.
Mr. Pence’s office did not return a request for comment about the letter.
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