Civil liberties groups applauded the disbanding of the Trump administration's so-called "Election Integrity Commission," tasked with proving the president right in his baseless claim that millions of people cast fraudulent votes in the 2016 election, costing him the popular vote.
"This commission started as a tragedy and ended as a farce," said Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice, in a statement. "It failed to find any evidence of the millions of illegal voters claimed by President Trump. But this should be more than just a somewhat-comic ending to a misguided effort. The claim of widespread voter fraud in the United States is in fact, fraud. The demise of this commission should put this issue to rest."
President Donald Trump formed the panel last spring, naming Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has spent much of his career pushing a false narrative regarding rampant "voter fraud" and voter suppression efforts, to head the commission.
The formation of the committee provoked widespread outrage among voting rights advocates who argued the administration was honing in on the practically non-existent issue of fraudulent voting by individual citizens in order to gain support for stringent voter ID laws, which have been found to keep minority voters away from the polls.
"We have real problems when it comes to elections: low voter turnout, unnecessary barriers to participation, outdated and insecure machines, and possible foreign interference," said Dale Ho of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in a statement. "But rather than address these real threats to election integrity, the commission engaged in a wild-goose chase for voter fraud, demonizing the very American voters whom we should all be helping to participate—with the not-so-secret goal of making voting harder with unnecessary barriers."
Trump tweeted about the demise of the panel, blaming states that refused to cooperate with Pence and Kobach's request that states hand over personal data for all registered voters.
Many mostly Democrat States refused to hand over data from the 2016 Election to the Commission On Voter Fraud. They fought hard that the Commission not see their records or methods because they know that many people are voting illegally. System is rigged, must go to Voter I.D.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 4, 2018
Forty-five states declined to pass along the information to the panel, with a number of state officials arguing that the commission itself was based on a lie and raising concerns that the request had provoked citizens to cancel their voter registrations.
Democratic lawmakers and voting rights advocates cheered the dissolution of the commission on social media, but some warned that vigilant protection of voting rights is still needed, as Trump now plans to ask the Department of Homeland Security to examine so-called "voter fraud."
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Saluting all the states that protected voter privacy and real election integrity, driving this fraudulent commission into the trash can. https://t.co/KZ8tGLEkJe— Rep. Jamie Raskin (@RepRaskin) January 4, 2018
The Administration’s “commission on election integrity” was always a scheme to suppress certain groups of Americans from exercising their right to vote. Good riddance https://t.co/y02pnX49Tf— Senator Bob Casey (@SenBobCasey) January 4, 2018
Relentless public scrutiny & litigation helped doom Trump's "election integrity" commission. If every voter suppression law received the same level of scrutiny things would be very different for voting rights— Ari Berman (@AriBerman) January 4, 2018
After disbanding sham 'election integrity' commission Trump says DHS will now search for phantom voter fraud, which means thousands of citizens could wrongly be tagged as illegal voters. From my @NYTmag piece on Kris Kobach https://t.co/IpAreRg1z3 pic.twitter.com/FjoG0XjT7J— Ari Berman (@AriBerman) January 4, 2018
"Good riddance," said Vanita Gupta, president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, of the voting commission's demise as she called for the strengthening of voting rights protections going forward.
"Instead of restricting access to the ballot box, we should be looking for ways to strengthen that fundamental right," Gupta added. "Congress and the states must make voting easier and expand citizen participation. Rather than appointing a voter suppression dream team of individuals who have made wildly inflated claims about voter fraud, the president should instead be addressing the very serious problems this country has in its elections, including voter suppression."