Brennan Center and Protect Democracy v. Department of Justice et al.
On August 21, 2017 the Brennan Center and Protect Democracy filed a federal lawsuit in New York to compel the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, General Services Administration, 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 under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) went unanswered.
President Trump launched the Commission in May, following months of unfounded claims that voter fraud and noncitizen voting were rampant in the 2016 election. Vice President Mike Pence is the Commission’s chair, and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach — a known promoter of voting restrictions and the myth of voter fraud — is the vice chair.
The Commission met in-person for the first time on July 19. Prior to this meeting, Kobach sent letters to chief state election officials requesting they submit “publicly-available data from state voter rolls.” Twenty-one states declined to provide any data, citing legal restrictions, privacy concerns, and uncertainty about how the information would be used.
After asking states to hold off on submitting data pending a court ruling, Kobach reissued the request on July 26 — but, emblematic of the Commission’s general lack of transparency, Kobach’s fellow panel members were left out of this decision-making process. Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, who serves on the Commission, said they never discussed renewing the request. Dunlap subsequently filed a lawsuit in federal district court in November, and won a preliminary injunction compelling the Commission to provide him with better access to documents.
The Brennan Center and Protect Democracy argue that the public is legally entitled to information about the Commission, which has released very few details about its operations, methods, or intentions. In their FOIAs, 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.