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Disbanded: Trump’s “Voter Fraud” Commission

Now disbanded, the president’s commission to investigate alleged voter fraud was a tool for enabling voter suppression.

Last Updated: July 1, 2018
Published: May 11, 2017

On January 3, 2018, President Donald Trump issued an executive order dissolving the controversial “Voter Fraud” Commission before it could issue a final report. The decision to disband the group followed months of controversy and legal challenges from civic groups, including the Brennan Center. The Brennan Center’s reaction to the White House’s statement is available here

President Trump initially created the “Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity” through an executive order signed on May 11, 2017. The commission was charged with studying “the registration and voting processes used in federal elections” and identifying “vulnerabilities in voting systems” that could lead to voter fraud. Vice President Mike Pence was the chair, and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach — a known promoter of voting restrictions and the myth of voter fraud — was the vice chair. It met for the first time on July 19 in Washington, D.C., and again on September 12 in Manchester, N.H. 

The Commission was created in the wake of President Trump’s repeated assertions that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election. For years, claims of fraud have been used to justify unwarranted voting restrictions. There is strong reason to suspect this commission was not a legitimate attempt to study elections, but rather a tool for enabling voter suppression. You can read more about the commission’s background here

The Commission’s Likely Agenda

The work of the commission could have resulted in a wave of serious, new barriers preventing Americans from exercising their fundamental right to vote.

The Myth of Voter Fraud

Study after study has demonstrated that fraud by voters at the polls is vanishingly rare, and members of President Trump’s own party have refuted his assertions. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell explicitly stated that we should not “spend any federal money investigating” voter fraud.

Commission Members’ Controversial Records on Voting

Vice President Mike Pence was the chair of the commission, and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was the vice chair. Four commissioners — Kris Kobach, Hans von Spakovsky, J. Christian Adams, and J. Kenneth Blackwell — have particularly long track records of voter suppression.

Assessing the Commission’s Evidence

Commissioners repeatedly cited misleading or patently untrue evidence to support their baseless claims of voter fraud. Here are some of those pieces of evidence, and resources that refute them. 

The Commission’s Controversies

The commission was mired in controversy since its inception. Here are some of the most prominent examples. 

Responses to the Commission’s Request for Voter File Data

State and advocacy group responses to Kris Kobach’s request for state voter file data.

Legal Actions Taken Against the Commission

Organizations filed legal challenges against the commission on a variety of transparency, privacy, and administrative policy grounds.

Investigating the Commission

The Brennan Center and other civic groups have filed public records requests to better understand the commission’s goals, operations, and the steps that led to its founding.