POLITICS
07/10/2017 01:47 pm ET Updated Jul 10, 2017

ACLU Sues Trump Administration Over Voter Fraud Probe

The group says the president's commission to investigate voter fraud is violating a federal transparency law.

WASHINGTON ― The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging the Trump administration’s commission that intends to investigate voter fraud.

The group on Monday filed a lawsuit accusing the commission of violating a federal transparency law because it has said its first publicly announced meeting, scheduled for July 19, will only available to the public via a video livestream.

“The commission held its first meeting without notice or making it open to the public. This process is cloaked in secrecy, raising serious concerns about its credibility and intent. What are they trying to hide?” Theresa Lee, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said in a statement.

The commission, which President Donald Trump created after claiming without evidence that 3 million to 5 million people voted illegally in last year’s election, also held a private meeting via conference call last week.

“The commission is conducting its work deep in the shadows, making it alarmingly suspect,” Sophia Lin Lakin, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said in a statement. “The commission is legally required to conduct the people’s business in the light of day.”

The commission is legally required to conduct the people’s business in the light of day. Sophia Lin Lakin, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project

The law in question is the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which requires government committees to make all of their meetings open to the public and to keep publicly available records of their proceedings.

In its complaint, the ACLU accused the commission, billed as a means of ensuring “election integrity,” of “providing a veneer of legitimacy” to Trump’s baseless claim of widespread voter fraud.

It alleges that the voter fraud investigation is violating another part of the law, which delineates that such committees “will not be inappropriately influenced by the appointing authority or by any special interest, but will instead be the result of the advisory committee’s independent judgment.”

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which is also a civil rights group, on Monday filed a similar lawsuit regarding the commission’s lack of transparency.

“The so-called Election Integrity Commission has been operating covertly and its actions, to date, have been shrouded in secrecy,” the group’s president, Kristen Clarke, said in a statement. “Through the Federal Advisory Committee Act, we are using an important statutory tool to expose and curb the illegitimacy of this Commission and to bar the commencement of any meetings before they make materials available for our inspection. In our view, the Commission must not conduct any meetings before complying with our request. We will continue to fight to expose all of the Commission’s illegitimate actions.”

Trump’s commission is chaired by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has enacted some of the country’s most restrictive voting laws. Other members of the commission have also pushed policies designed to make voting more difficult, and some do not have much experience with elections.

The ACLU has sued Kobach several times in voting rights cases.

The voter fraud commission is already off to a rocky start. Numerous state elections officials denied Kobach’s request last month to provide detailed voter information as part of the probe, citing possible legal and ethical violations.

Sam Levine contributed reporting. 

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