President Donald Trump on Wednesday questioned the motives of states that refuse to comply with his voter fraud commission’s request for voters’ information.
“One has to wonder what they’re worried about,” Trump said while at the commission’s first public meeting. “There’s something, there always is.”
Trump created the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity through an executive order in May, but the task force ignited controversy when it asked states to hand over voters’ data a month later.
A June 28 letter to states from the commission asked for “publicly available voter roll data.” However, the letter also requested a lot of specific details, including: parts of Social Security numbers, dates of birth, addresses and information regarding felony convictions or military status.
Several secretaries of state, Republican and Democrat, bucked the request or said they would only provide limited data.
And the commission was hit with a bevy of legal obstacles by organizations and state lawmakers who worry that the commission has already violated open meeting rules when it conducted a meeting on the phone. Others worry that providing the information requested would legitimize the idea that voter fraud is widespread.
Still, others worry about just how safe Americans’ information will be. Just last week the White House made public the emails it has received from voters regarding the election commission. Personal information of those who wrote in, including physical and email addresses, were not redacted.
The commission met for the first time Wednesday. Here’s what you need to know.
What is the commission?
Trump created the commission through an executive order in May. It is expected to investigate instances of alleged voter fraud in the 2016 election.
Vice President Mike Pence chairs the commission with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach serving as its vice chair.
“This action by President Trump fulfills another promise made to the American people,” Pence said in May as the commission was created. “We can’t take for granted the integrity of the vote.”
Other members of the committee include: Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson, New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell and Christy McCormick, the commissioner of the Election Assistance Commission.
Gardner and Dunlap are both Democrats. McCormick was nominated for her position by former President Barack Obama in 2014.
Why did Trump create it?
In the days following his inauguration, Trump called for a “major investigation” into alleged voter fraud in the U.S.
“Depending on results, we will strengthen up voting procedures!” Trump tweeted at the end of January.
Trump has also claimed multiple times that between 3 and 5 million “illegals” voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in the election, thus costing him the popular vote. These claims have not been verified.
Clinton bested Trump in the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes.
How have states responded?
Nearly 20 states have rebuffed the commission’s request and said they would not respond.
“I have no intention of honoring this request,” Gov. Terry McAuliffe, D-Va., said in a statement last month, citing the personal information requested about registered voters. “The Vice Chair’s letter also contained a list of vague inquiries about the election policies and laws of the Commonwealth.”
Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, a Republican, suggested the commission “go jump in the Gulf of Mexico.”
Kobach even said his state would only provide some of the data requested by his commission.
“More than 30 states have already shared this information. And the others states, that information will be forthcoming,” Trump said Wednesday. “So the full truth will be known and exposed if necessary in the light of day.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.