Trump orders voter fraud commission after lodging charges over the 2016 election that he won
The order adds a new chapter to an issue that has confounded many political observers. Without any evidence, Trump, in tweets and public statements for months after his campaign ended, charged massive voter fraud to explain rival
Trump had signaled in January he would sign an order setting up an inquiry on fraud, but it has been delayed repeatedly, as aides have uncomfortably answered questions about its purpose amid widespread evidence that voter fraud is a minor problem in elections.
Like many of Trump’s executive orders, the text of Thursday’s missive falls far short of the dramatic rhetoric Trump once used to describe its mission — a “major investigation.” It establishes a 15-member Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, led by Vice President
The commission will examine fraud in voting and voter registration, vulnerabilities in the system and laws that undermine Americans' confidence in their votes. Voting rights activists and Democrats worry that it could lay the groundwork for implementing more restrictive voting laws that could suppress turnout.
The order exemplifies how Trump — who has been weighing in publicly on current events for decades as a private citizen — now can mobilize the power of the federal government, with a pen stroke, to address an unsubstantiated claim — in this case, that millions voted fraudulently in the
Most voting specialists and researchers say Trump's repeated assertion is unfounded and even dangerous to the credibility of the democratic voting system. Voting rights advocates and Democrats nonetheless worry that Trump's investigation could spark proposals for national laws making it harder to vote.
“The evidence for fraud has been thin,” said Michael P. McDonald, an elections specialist in the
Lawmakers also could target provisions of the 1993 Motor Voter Act that require states to help voters register when they apply for driver's licenses or public assistance.
The vice chairman of the commission, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, has championed laws in his state and a handful of others intended to require proof of citizenship to register, which have been fought in courts by opponents who say they are intended to depress turnout. Kobach's appointment alarmed many voting rights groups.
In addition to Pence and Kobach, the White House named five other panel members, all current or former election officials, including two Democrats and one Republican formerly appointed to a position in the
One was Bill Gardner of New Hampshire, the longest-serving secretary of state in the country.
"When over half the people think there's voter fraud in the polls, I think it'd be helpful to know why they do," said Gardner, who has held his post since 1976.
Trump at one point claimed to a group of senators that thousands of Massachusetts voters had crossed into New Hampshire in buses to vote illegally, an assertion that was roundly dismissed by Republican leaders in the state as well as Democrats.
"People would notice, I think, a bus," said William Galvin, a Democrat who is secretary of state in Massachusetts.
Galvin called Trump's commission "ridiculous" and said Pence's role as chairman was an inherent conflict of interest, given that he ran on the ballot with Trump.
Even Trump's Republican colleagues on Capitol Hill have been reluctant to join him.
“We’ve moved on,” Sen. John
"We had an election; it was a decisive outcome. We have a new president, a new Congress, and I view the election as history and we're ready to roll up our sleeves and go to work for the American people."
Trump spent weeks tweeting unfounded accusations of widespread voter fraud after his electoral victory in November, as it became clear that Hillary Clinton had won the popular vote by nearly 3 million ballots.
"I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally," he tweeted Nov. 27.
In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally
Others in his party dismissed the claim, and Trump's own lawyers, while fighting recount efforts in Michigan, argued that "all available evidence suggests that the 2016 general election was not tainted by fraud or mistake."