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Trump stokes voter fraud fears as commission convenes

‘This commission has no preconceived notions,’ Pence said. But Trump has already claimed ‘millions’ voted illegally.


President Donald Trump put the power of the presidency behind one of his favorite theories on Wednesday, convening a panel to investigate voter fraud even though experts have largely dismissed his evidence-free claim that “millions” of illegal votes last year cost him the popular vote.

Vice President Mike Pence, who leads the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity that was created through executive order in May, said at the group’s first meeting that it would be “bipartisan” and that its findings were not predetermined. His office said the commission would cost about $ 500,000 over two years.

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“We have no preconceived notions or preordained results,” Pence said on Wednesday.

But Trump himself has repeatedly declared, without evidence, that the American electoral system is rigged and that mass voter fraud took place during the 2016 election. Democrat Hillary Clinton won the nationwide popular vote by about 3 million votes.

“In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” Trump wrote on Twitter in late November. Pence’s office did not respond to multiple requests to explain whether he agrees with Trump that millions of people voted illegally.

Trump further stoked fears of voter fraud at the start of the commission meeting on Wednesday, saying states that have declined to provide information to the committee are attempting to hide something.

A bipartisan group of secretaries of state declined to provide some voter information to the committee, voicing fears about the security of the data that they were asked to provide.

“What are they worried about?” Trump asked. “There’s something. There always is.”

Trump said people he met on the campaign trail trail would regularly raise concerns with him about voter fraud, “in some cases having to do with very large numbers of people in certain states.”

He did not give any specific examples.

Democrats and voter rights advocates have slammed the commission as a thinly-veiled Republican attempt to curtail voting rights, especially among minorities and young voters, who tend to vote for Democrats.

“The Commission should explore increasing access to voting, not perpetuating the false and damaging notion that massive voter fraud exists in our nation’s elections,” wrote a group of Democratic members of Congress in a letter to Pence. “We will fiercely oppose any attempt by this Administration to suppress the vote and undermine the protections guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, the National Voter Registration Act, the Voting Rights Act, and other important voter protection laws.”

During the opening statements, a number of members questioned whether non-citizens voting or voter fraud could effect election outcomes. But there was little discussion of Russian interference in the 2016 election, which is the subject of multiple investigations, or concerns about cyber security.

US President Donald Trump walks to a motorcade from the North Portico of the White House June 21, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

“Our elections face serious concerns including attempted foreign cyber intrusions, partisan motivated voter suppression, and the desperate need for modernization of our election administration and voting technology. Voters should demand a true bipartisan effort to tackle these problems,” said Trevor Potter, president of the Campaign Legal Center and a former Republican chairman of the Federal Election Commission, in a statement.

The commission includes a number of controversial figures, including Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has been accused of partisan moves to suppress voting. Kobach is serving as the vice chair of the commission.

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Source: POLITICO – TOP Stories

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