Trump disbands controversial voter fraud commission

White House blames decision to end panel on states’ refusal to supply personal voter data

Voters casting ballots in San Diego, California, during the 2016 US election. Photograph:  Mike Blake/Reuters

Voters casting ballots in San Diego, California, during the 2016 US election. Photograph: Mike Blake/Reuters

 

US president Donald Trump is disbanding his controversial voter fraud commission amid infighting, lawsuits and state officials’ refusal to co-operate.

Mr Trump convened the commission to investigate the 2016 presidential election, after alleging repeatedly and without evidence that voting fraud cost him the popular vote. Mr Trump won the Electoral College.

The White House blamed the decision to end the panel on more than a dozen states which have refused to comply with the commission’s demand for reams of personal voter data, including names, partial social security numbers, voting histories and party affiliations.

“Rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense, today President Donald J Trump signed an executive order to dissolve the commission, and he has asked the department of homeland security to review its initial findings and determine next courses of action,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.

Critics saw the commission as part of a conservative campaign to make it harder for poor people and minority voters to access the ballot box, and to justify Mr Trump’s claims of voter fraud.

Mr Trump has repeatedly alleged, without evidence, that between three million and five million people voted illegally in the 2016 election, delivering the popular vote to his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. Mrs Clinton received more than 2.8 million more votes than Mr Trump nationwide.

While there have been isolated cases of voter fraud in the US, past studies have found it to be exceptionally rare.

Russia investigation

Critics also viewed the commission as part of an attempt to distract from the ongoing investigations into Russian election meddling and potential collusion between Moscow and Trump campaign aides.

The intelligence community concluded that the Russian government mounted a campaign to help Mr Trump win, hacking email accounts and spreading false stories.

Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach, a conservative Republican and the commission’s vice-chairman, characterised the decision to dissolve the bipartisan group as a “tactical change” and argued that the department of homeland security can pursue an investigation of election fraud more quickly and efficiently.

“The Democrats, both on and off the commission, made very clear that they were not interested in determining the scope and extent of voter fraud and, indeed, they were trying to stop the commission in its tracks,” he said. “The Democrats lost their opportunity, lost their seat at the table, by stonewalling.” – AP