New York, NY –(ENEWSPF)–August 21, 2017. The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and Protect Democracy filed a lawsuit today in federal court in New York to compel the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Office of Management and Budget to disclose information to which the public is entitled pertaining to the president’s “Election Integrity” Commission. The organizations filed suit after their requests to the agencies for information under the Freedom of Information Act went unanswered.
The Commission has had its motives and work questioned since it was launched in May, after the president made unfounded claims that voter fraud and noncitizen voting were rampant in the 2016 election. It is co-chaired by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has a long history of supporting — and implementing — anti-voter policies.
Plaintiffs argue in today’s filing that the public is legally entitled to information about the Commission, which has released very few details about its operations, methods, or intentions. Even commissioners themselves are being left in the dark. Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, a member of the panel, said commissioners had not discussed the second request for voter data before it was sent to all 50 states.
Voters deserve to know how the Commission was put together, what its goals are, whether it has been complying with legal requirements, and how it will use the detailed personal information it has requested from local election officials. In their freedom of information requests, plaintiffs had requested all communications and documents relating to the commission and its members, or any similar effort to establish a body to study voter fraud. Plaintiffs now ask the court to order the government to search for and produce the records to which they are entitled by specified date.
“This administration has a troubling pattern of keeping public information from the public — a pattern that is continuing with this commission,” said Wendy Weiser, director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program. “The government’s obligation to share this information is especially important when there are so many reasons to be skeptical of this commission. When the public is not able to oversee the work of a presidential panel like this, there is a risk of abuse, which could negatively impact voting rights across the country.”
“President Trump’s election commission was founded on a false premise about our country’s election systems,” said Larry Schwartztol, an attorney with Protect Democracy. “If the commission is being run in order to advance a misleading narrative about voter fraud, it threatens to undermine fair access to our democracy. When the stakes are that high, ensuring transparency is a critical safeguard.”
Without an open process the public cannot provide informed comments to the Commission or trust the integrity of its work, which will include making recommendations to the president pertaining to federal elections and the most fundamental right in American democracy — the right to vote.