From Washington, D.C.

Congresswoman Pingree joins lawmakers to question Homeland Security over Voter Fraud Commission

Tue, 02/13/2018 - 4:45pm

    WASHINGTON, DC — Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, has joined Representative Derek Kilmer, D-Washington, and a group of 11 other lawmakers in raising concerns about the future of Trump Administration’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. Recent reports indicate that, despite dissolving the Commission, President Trump intends to transfer some or all of the Commission’s work to the Department of Homeland Security, according to a Feb. 13 news release from Pingree’s office. 

    The members of Congress asked some pointed questions to the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security about President Trump’s future intentions to potentially make it harder for Americans to vote, and underscored the importance of protecting voting rights.
    “From the beginning, it was clear that this Commission was created to give cover to the President’s false claim that large numbers of people voted fraudulently and to distract from investigations of Russian election meddling,” Pingree said. “Over and over, this claim has been proven false—even with its incredible lack of transparency and biased leadership, this Commission was not able to show otherwise. I’m very concerned that this misleading work may continue at the Department of Homeland Security. We absolutely need to know what steps the Department is taking to keep this from becoming another blatant attempt at justifying voter suppression.” 
    “The federal government should be protecting voting rights—not making it harder for Americans to vote,” Kilmer said. “Rather than having the Department of Homeland Security focus on unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, the agency should be focused on real security threats like attacks on our nation’s cyber infrastructure, including potential threats to voting machines.” 
    “As the former Texas Secretary of State, I have a strong working knowledge of the process of registering to vote and voting,” Rep. Henry Cuellar, of Texas, said. “Rather than focusing on nonexistent voter fraud, we should be focusing on the widespread issue of barriers to voting. We are a representative democracy that is strengthened when more people vote, not fewer.”
    “President Trump’s sham Voter Fraud Commission was designed from the start to justify false claims of voter fraud and advance Republicans’ voter suppression agenda,” Rep. Betty McCollum, of Minnesota, said. “Now that the commission has been terminated, the Trump administration must explain to Congress and the American people exactly how they plan to proceed and whether they will pledge to conduct future election integrity efforts in an accurate, thorough, and fact-based manner.”
    “Voter suppression is nothing new to Ohioans as evidenced in the Husted v. A Philip Randolph case now before the Supreme Court. Voter suppression in the clever name of ‘election integrity’ must stop,” said Rep. Marcy Kaptur, of Ohio. “I was pleased to see the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity disbanded, but questions remain. The President and his team should stop all efforts to polarize the security of our election systems. I urge transparency and cooperation with Congress.”
    "My ancestors fought and died for the right to vote. Turning back the clock on voting rights is simply not an option,” Rep. Barbara Lee, of California, said. “Sadly, that is exactly what President Trump and this Administration is trying to do by transferring this commission over to the Department of Homeland Security. Let’s be clear, the president put this commission together because he can’t accept the fact that he lost the popular vote by 2.9 million votes.  This commission is a sham and we will fight it in all its forms to ensure that not one cent of taxpayer dollars is used to pave the way for even greater voter suppression”
    According to The New York Times, the commission “generated lawsuits, outrage and some scholarly testimony, but no real evidence that American elections are corrupt.”  he President abruptly disbanded the committee in January after states across the nation chose to sue the government rather than turn over information about registered voters.
    In the letter, the lawmakers asked seven questions to the new Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Kristjen Nielsen. Politico recently reported President Trump is interested in resurrecting the commission by having DHS take over the commission’s duties. 
    The following members of Congress joined Rep. Kilmer and Pingree in the letter:
    Rep. Grace Meng, New Yortk
    Rep. Marcy Kaptur, Ohio
    Rep. David Price, North Carolina
    Rep. Sanford Bishop, Jr., Georgia
    Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Florida
    Rep. Henry Cuellar, Texas
    Rep. Mike Quigley, Illinois,
    Rep. Mark Pocan, Wisconsin
    Rep. Katherine Clark, Massachusetts
    Rep. Barbara Lee, California
    Rep Betty McCollum, Minnesota
    The full text of the letter, which was sent to the Department of Homeland Security late last week, is as follows:
    Dear Secretary Nielsen,
    We write regarding President Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity (“Commission”) established by executive order on May 11, 2017.  The Commission—led by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach— was premised on President Trump’s unsubstantiated assertion of widespread voter fraud in the 2016 Presidential election and was tasked with overseeing “the registration and voting processes used in Federal elections” and identifying “vulnerabilities in voting systems.” 
    The controversial Commission met only twice and spent most of its time embroiled in controversy.  Notably, the Commission faced a federal court ruling requiring increased transparency, a lawsuit by one of its own members alleging that the Commission refused to share documents, and the refusal of almost all 50 states to provide some or all of the voter information requested by the Commission.
    In light of these failures, President Trump signed an executive order dissolving the Commission on January 3rd, even though the Commission had not yet issued a final report.  However, recent reports indicate that, despite dissolving the Commission, President Trump intends to transfer some or all of the Commission’s work to the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”). 
    False claims of voter fraud have been used for years to justify restrictive voting measures. Evidence suggests that the Commission was intended to further voter suppression rather than investigate any legitimate instances of voter fraud, and we are concerned that President Trump intends to resurrect the Commission by transferring it to DHS.  With that in mind, we ask for answers to the following questions within 45 days:
    • Please identify the officials at DHS who will oversee the work of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity transferred to DHS?
    • What role will Vice President Pence, Kris Kobach and other Commission members have in advising DHS on voter fraud issues?
    • Please describe the anticipated nature and scope of the Department’s work on voter fraud issues, including the extent to which the Department will resume the work of the Commission.
    • Does the Department have any plans to create a comprehensive voter database?  If so, how will the Department ensure that non-public voter information is safe from cyberattack?
    • Does the Department plan to match state voter rolls to its own records of non-citizens?
    • How will the Department ensure that its work on voter fraud is not used to justify voter suppression tactics?
    • What efforts are being made to ensure that the Department will execute its work on voter fraud in an accurate, thorough, and impartial manner?