Election panel vice-chair: Group may not recommend changes

Wednesday, September 13, 2017
Former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, founder of "Let America Vote," speaks to protesters gathered Tuesday outside Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. Kander and others were protesting a meeting of the Trump administration's commission on voter fraud, which they argue is designed to suppress voting.
Holly Ramer ~ Associated Press

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- The vice chairman of President Donald Trump's commission on election fraud Tuesday dismissed criticism the panel is bent on voter suppression, saying there is a "high possibility" it will make no recommendations when it finishes its work --and even if it does, it can't force states to adopt them.

Trump, a Republican, created the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity in May to investigate his unsubstantiated claims millions of people voted illegally in 2016.

Democrats have blasted the commission as a biased panel determined to curtail voting rights, and they ramped up their criticism before and during the group's daylong meeting in New Hampshire.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, a Democrat, said some voters have canceled their registrations or been hesitant to register since learning the group has asked state governments to provide data on voters.

"Their voting-suppression impact has already begun," he said on a press call organized by the Democratic National Committee.

The commission in June requested any records considered public by states, including driver's license numbers, partial Social Security numbers and voting histories.

No state is sending all of the information sought, and 14 states are denying the commission's request.

There was no mention of the data request during the commission's meeting, which included presentations about historical election turnout data, electronic voting systems and issues affecting public confidence in elections.

But speaking to reporters afterward, commission vice chairman Kris Kobach emphasized states are being asked to send already-public information and called the Democrats' criticism about voter suppression "bizarre."

"The claim goes something like this: The commission will meet, then they'll recommend things like photo ID or some other election-security measure, then the states will adopt them. There's your leap in logic. The commission does not have the ability to do a Jedi mind trick on a state legislature and force them to adopt anything," said Kobach, the Republican secretary of state in Kansas.

"All the commission is doing is collecting data," he said. "It may make recommendations, or I think at this point there's a high possibility the commission makes no recommendations, and they just say, 'Here's the data. States, do with it what you want.'"

Privacy advocates have raised concerns about the information being collected in one central place, although the commission has said the detailed data will not be made public and will be destroyed when the commission is done with it.

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