The Government Accountability Office has accepted a request by a group of U.S. senators to investigate the activities of President Donald Trump's commission on voter fraud.
Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota wrote the watchdog agency last week to request the probe, citing a lack of transparency surrounding the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The senators said in a statement Thursday the GAO investigation would begin in about five months.
"The GAO's decision to investigate is essential to protecting American voters," Bennet said. "In its review, the GAO must ensure the Commission's work isn't using taxpayer money to support conspiracies long relegated to the fringes of political discourse."
An email to Andrew Kossack, the commission's executive director, was not immediately returned.
The Trump commission has stirred controversy since it was established last spring. Its first significant action was to request a wide range of information about all registered voters in every state, including partial Social Security numbers, dates of birth, addresses and voting history.
The commission scaled back its request after stinging criticism. A tally by Associated Press reporters nationwide shows that 15 states denied the request, raising questions about how useful the information would be.
Critics say Trump is using the commission to find support for his unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud that cost him the popular vote during the 2016 election. Democrat Hillary Clinton received 2.8 million more votes nationwide than Trump.
While there have been isolated cases of voter fraud in the U.S., there is no evidence of it being a widespread problem, as Trump has suggested.
There have also been concern about the members of the commission, with saying it's stacked with people who favor voting restrictions, rather than those who want to expand access, and that the commission has a predetermined agenda that will result in recommendations making it more difficult for people to register to vote, stay registered and cast ballots.
Last week, two of the four Democrats on the 11-person commission sent letters complaining of a lack of information about the panel's work.
One of the commissioners, Jefferson County (Ala.) Probate Judge Alan L. King, said he had no information on when the commission's next meeting would be. He also said that the only communication since the commission's last meeting more than a month ago had been to inform them of the death of a fellow commissioner, former Arkansas state lawmaker David Dunn.
In their Oct. 18 letter requesting the review, the senators cited a lack of response from the commission to several inquiries from members of Congress. The senators asked for GAO staff to look into expenses incurred by the commission and the steps being taken to protect any voter data that has been collected, among other items.
"Without any PACEI response to Congressional inquiries, we fear that the manner in which the PACEI is conducting its work will prevent the public from a full and transparent understanding of the Commission's conclusions and unnecessarily diminish confidence in our democratic process," the senators wrote.