Trump's voter fraud group holds first public meeting

Thursday, 20 Jul, 2017

Trump's commission asked states to turn over "publicly-available" data, including birth dates, political affiliations and the last four digits of voters' Social Security numbers. And although many secretaries of state have rejected the over-reaching privacy request, many Americans sense distrust.

In the first 90 minutes of the meeting, just one commissioner - former Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell - mentioned Russia's interference in the 2016 election.

He took dead aim at the National Voter Registration Act, a law that many experts believe the commission under Kobach will ultimately seek to scale back, since it has prevented Kobach from implementing a proof-of-citizenship registration requirement.

In a column posted Monday on a right wing website, Blackwell argues: "Counties across the country have more people registered to vote than they have residents eligible to do so. The commission is simply to put facts on the table", he said on Wednesday. Von Spakovsky handed out printouts of a database he maintains of voter fraud cases showing nearly 1,100 cases and almost a thousand convictions. There have been no instances of widespread fraud reported in last year's election.

He sent the letters several weeks ago asking state officials for the extensive voter information, prompting the pushback from state capitals as well as Democrats on Capitol Hill.

"I am a witness that every vote matters and there doesn't need to be massive voter fraud to sway the outcome", he said as the commission convened in Washington, D.C.

Trump questioned the states' refusal, saying, "If any state does not want to share this information, one has to wonder what they're anxious about?".

Blackwell says the commission must catalog all the "threats and vulnerabilities out there", and keep up with new ones that are created.

Pence also said the commission was committed to openness and transparency, encouraging members of the public to share their views about voter fraud via email.

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President Trump established the advisory commission in May with a mandate to review US election integrity, with a focus on voter fraud, voter suppression and other "vulnerabilities".

Democrat Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by a margin of three million ballots, but did not win the state-based Electoral College tally that decides U.S. elections. We're also planning to set up a year-round hotline that voters can call to find information about voting in their state or report instance of voter suppression.

We're joined by NPR's Pam Fessler, who's come by our studios before covering this meeting today. And if there are we deal with them in way a that is, again, balanced toward access for the voting public to participate in their government. As you said, this panel started off with a lot of problems, a lot of credibility problems.

President Donald Trump's Commission on Election Integrity is conducting a fishing expedition in waters as shallow as they are dark.

Second, the commission was supposed to be bipartisan. President Trump used an executive order to form the commission.

FESSLER: Not exactly. And the rest of the 12-member panel is predominantly Republican.