Despite insistence that widespread voter fraud exists and pledges to investigate the matter fully, it seems the Trump administration has not bothered to contact top state election officials across the country.
The Huffington Post asked all 50 secretaries of state and election officials in the District of Columbia if they had been contacted by the White House or Department of Justice regarding the forthcoming investigation. Not a single secretary of state’s office responded to say that it had.
Forty-four different secretaries of state and election officials in the District of Columbia said they had not been contacted. Five states ― Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, New Jersey and Tennessee ― did not respond to repeated requests for comment. The Texas Attorney General’s office, which handles investigations into voter fraud in the state, declined to comment.
“Not a peep,” Linda Lamone, the state administrator of elections in Maryland wrote in an email.
President Donald Trump has claimed, without evidence, that between 3 and 5 million people voted illegally in the 2016 election and said he would have won the popular vote had it not been for voter fraud. He has tapped Vice President Mike Pence to lead a national investigation into the issue.
But the lack of contact between the Trump administration and state officials raises questions about both the evidence Trump is using to make his claims of voter fraud and his commitment to substantiate his claims. Multiple studies and investigations, including one five-year probe by the Justice Department, have found widespread voter fraud to be virtually nonexistent. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said earlier this month he didn’t see evidence of widespread voter fraud and that his committee wouldn’t investigate it.
Still, the White House has pressed on in setting up the investigation. During a call with the National Association of Secretaries of State last week, administration officials said that the investigation would take place and could focus on election security and integrity, such as the maintenance of voter rolls, said Kay Stimson, a spokeswoman for the group. The White House didn’t provide details on the scope of the investigation or a timeline for it. And Marc Lotter, a Pence spokesman, would only say that that their office had “no updates at this time.”
“Staff is continuing to develop the framework for this effort. We will let you know when updates are ready for release,” Lotter wrote in an email.
Stimson noted that it wasn’t unusual for sitting secretaries of state to be uninvolved in setting up a presidential commission. The ultimate makeup of the committee, she noted, reflects the approach by the officials in charge of the commission. NPR reported on Saturday that many top experts on voting still haven’t been contacted by Pence.
Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s voting rights project, said that the slow pace of the investigation was telling.
“If millions of people had really voted illegally in 2016, you’d think that that would be a national crisis deserving of immediate attention,” Ho wrote in an email. “The fact that not a single chief election official has been contacted by the Trump administration about the ‘Pence Commission’ reveals that people in the Administration know that the President’s comments about millions of illegal votes in 2016 are baseless assertions without any actual evidence. Which, at the end of the day, is the same thing as a lie.”
Even though the White House has moved slowly to investigate voter fraud, Trump’s claims have stoked fear of it and that’s already had consequences. A number of states, including Iowa, Arkansas, West Virginia and New Hampshire are considering measures that would make it more difficult to vote.
So far, the only Washington officials that the secretaries of state have heard from on voter fraud is three Democratic members of Congress. Several secretary of state offices said they had received an inquiry from Reps. Elijah Cummings (Md.), Robert Brady (Penn.) and James Clyburn (S.C.), who asked for a list of all cases of potential voter fraud. Cummings said he told Trump during a meeting this month that widespread voter fraud wasn’t real and that he should be investigating voter suppression instead.
“I said ‘Mr. President, come on now, come on Mr. President, there’s no voter fraud.’ I said ‘but there is voter suppression,” Cummings said on CNN earlier this month. “I said ‘you cannot have a legitimate voter survey or evaluation in the United States without addressing the issue of voter suppression.’ He agreed with me.”
This story has been updated with comment from the offices of the secretary of state in Arkansas, Missouri and Wyoming.