A White House commission set up to look into U.S. President Donald Trump’s allegations of voter fraud, which critics have said could be a vehicle to suppress voting rights, is slated to meet for the first time on Wednesday.
Studies have shown voter fraud is rare in U.S. elections. Trump charged without evidence last year that millions voted unlawfully in the November presidential election. He won the Electoral College, which tallies wins in states and determines the presidential winner. But he lost the popular vote to his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
Trump assigned Vice President Mike Pence to lead the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.
The panel ran headlong into controversy last month when its vice chair, Kris Kobach, the secretary of state for Kansas and a high-profile advocate of tougher laws on immigration and voter identification, asked states to turn over voter information.
Four senior Democratic representatives wrote a letter to Pence on Monday demanding Kobach’s removal “because of false public statements about voter fraud and his use of his official position to further his political campaign for governor of Kansas.”
Kobach, in an interview with CNN, said his critics’ argument that studying the fraud issue by the commission would result in voter suppression was ludicrous.
“The commission is not set up to prove or disprove President Trump’s claim. The commission is simply to put facts on the table,” he said.
“So if, as the Democrat members of Congress who wrote that letter contend, there is no voter fraud, then we will make their case for them because the commission will come up with nothing.”
The data requested by Kobach included names, the last four digits of Social Security numbers, addresses, birth dates, political affiliation, felony convictions and voting histories.
Some states refused, and others said they needed to study whether they could provide the data.
The American Civil Liberties Union sued the commission, and a watchdog group, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, sought a temporary restraining order against Kobach’s request.
Civil rights groups and Democratic lawmakers have said the commission could lead to new ID requirements and other measures making it harder to vote.
The commission’s meeting will be live-streamed on the White House website beginning at 11 a.m. (1500 GMT).
(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Peter Cooney and Jonathan Oatis)