WASHINGTON — President Trump has repeatedly claimed that millions of people vote illegally in American elections, and he hopes the White House’s commission on electoral integrity — which held its inaugural meeting Wednesday — eventually finds what the president described as the “full truth.”
The 12-person commission is headed by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach serves as its vice-chair. Like Trump, Kobach has previously brought up the issue of non-citizen voting. However, Pence said repeatedly throughout Wednesday’s meeting that the commission “has no preconceived notions or preordained results.”
The vice president described the members of the commission as “fact-finders.” One of the inaugural moves by the commission has been to request that all 50 states and the District of Columbia provide the federal government information about registered voters, including what elections they have voted in and whether they have been convicted of a crime.
Over 30 states have said they intend to comply with the request, according to Pence.
Several states, however, continue to refuse to comply with the commission’s request. President Trump remarked, “What are they worried about? There’s something. There always is.”
Many of the states that have refused the request for information have cited privacy concerns as the reason behind their refusal.
The administration’s focus on voter fraud has typically rested on the idea of illegal immigrants going to the ballot box. White House senior adviser Stephen Miller said in a February television appearance, “We know for a fact, you have massive numbers of non-citizens registered to vote in this country.”
Hans von Spakovsky, a member of the commission and a legal fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said that the commission should inquire about data from federal court clerks about people who have been called for jury duty and were excused due to being non-citizens. The jury duty lists are taken from voter registration databases, and a 2005 study from the U.S. Government Accountability Office discovered that in one federal district court up to 3 percent of the 30,000 people called in for jury duty were non-citizens.
Von Spakovsky also said the commission should inquire about information the Department of Homeland Security has on people who have applied to become a citizen and marked on their application that they have voted or registered to vote. Kobach agreed with the need for this information and suggested that the commission’s staff work to obtain it.
The commission won’t only focus on non-citizen voting. Kobach and the commission agreed to have staff look into elections decided by close margins, automatic voter registration, resources for prosecuting election crimes, what databases states are using to check their voter rolls, whether U.S. Attorney offices are sharing conviction information, and how online registration or not having registration at all are working for states that use these methods.
Kobach described this as a “way we chart our course forward” and not a hard and fast list that the commission will tackle.
The commission will identify threats to voting integrity and then deliver recommendations to the president, and will have four more meetings in the next nine months. “We have no choice. If we want to make America great again, we have to protect the integrity of the vote and our voters,” Trump said. “I look forward to the findings and recommendations your report will produce, and I share your report as soon as I can and as soon as possible with the American people so the full truth will be known and exposed, if necessary, in the light of day.”