US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to establish a commission to review alleged voter fraud and voter suppression in the American election system. Vice President Mike Pence has been named the chairman of the commission and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach as the vice-chair. As per the executive order, the ‘Commission on Election Integrity’ will study vulnerabilities in voting systems used for federal elections that could lead to improper voter registrations, improper voting, fraudulent voter registrations, and fraudulent voting. The commission will also study concerns about voter suppression, as well as other voting irregularities. The commission will utilise all available data, including state and federal databases. The commission is expected to issue a report in 2018. Apart from Pence and Kobach, five other members to this bipartisan commission are Connie Lawson, Secretary of State of Indiana; Bill Gardner, Secretary of State of New Hampshire; Matthew Dunlap, Secretary of State of Maine; Ken Blackwell, Former Secretary of State of Ohio and Christy McCormick, Commissioner, Election Assistance Commission.
“As the chief election officer of a state, ensuring the integrity of elections is my number one responsibility. The work of this commission will assist all state elections officials in the country in understanding, and addressing, the problem of voter fraud,” Kobach said. The creation of the commission was immediately opposed by the Democratic lawmakers who see it as an attempt by Trump to divert public’s attention from the removal of FBI Director James Comey. “It’s absurd that the White House has created a commission to investigate unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud when states across the country are making it harder and harder for citizens to vote,” Senator Diane Feinstein, Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee said. “This is a transparent attempt to justify President Trump’s false claim that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 presidential election. There’s simply no evidence of widespread voter fraud in this country,” she said.
Feinstein said it is important that the US does not lose sight of the context in which this commission has been created. “State laws making it harder and harder for Americans to vote by imposing strict ID requirements and reducing early voting are rooted in lies about voter fraud. These laws have had a disproportionate effect on the voting rights of African-Americans, Latinos, students, the elderly and low-income Americans,” she said. Senator Patrick Leahy alleged that the commission is yet “another malicious effort” to undermine the voting rights of millions of Americans across the country. “The integrity of our elections is an foundational issue, but any commission led by an extremist like Kris Kobach – a ‘birther’ whose attempts to restrict voting rights have repeatedly been struck down in federal court – has zero credibility,” he said.
Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin alleged that the formation of the commission is an attempt to divert the attention in the aftermath of the firing of the FBI Director James Comey. “Just two days after the ouster of former-FBI Director James Comey and amid growing scrutiny and questions into the Trump campaign’s connection with Russia, President Trump is trying to divert attention from the ongoing FBI investigation by returning to his baseless allegations of millions of cases of voter fraud in the 2016 presidential election,” he said. “I believe that the American people deserve an independent, nonpartisan investigation into the 2016 presidential election—one that scrutinises President Trump’s unfounded accusations of widespread voter fraud, Republican efforts to suppress turnout with burdensome voting restrictions, and Russia’s interference in our election and reports of contact between the Trump campaign and the Russian government,” Leahy said.