Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap is upping the ante in his effort to compel President Trump’s voter fraud commission to provide him with information and correspondence about its work.
Dunlap, one of four Democrats on the 11-member Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, has asked a federal judge to issue an injunction forcing the body to promptly turn over documents now and in the future and to allow him “to fully participate on an equal basis as all other commissioners.”
Dunlap filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Nov. 9, more than three weeks after not receiving a response to a formal request for the information. He argued that the Federal Advisory Committee Act requires that all commissioners receive equal information about the commission’s work, but said he has not been privy to any discussions related to meeting materials, witness invitations, goals or outreach.
“I had hoped filing the complaint would convey to the commission that I’m serious about fully participating in the work awaiting us,” Dunlap said in a written statement Thursday afternoon. “Unfortunately, that intention has not been met, and instead I see media reports filled with attacks and recriminations directed at me for asking for our working papers and work schedule. I’m left with the regrettable choice to push the matter further in the courts.”
FEARING ALL-REPUBLICAN REPORT
The commission’s vice chair, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, said in a written statement Nov. 9 to the Kansas City Star that Dunlap’s lawsuit was “baseless and paranoid” and that the delays in the commission’s communications were because of other lawsuits it has been served with and the arrest of a staff member on charges of possession of child pornography.
The commission’s executive director, Andrew Kossack, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In an interview Thursday afternoon with the Portland Press Herald, Dunlap expressed frustration with the commission’s obstinacy and said he is increasingly concerned that policy recommendations for the president might be developed in secret by Kobach and certain other commissioners who share the vice chair’s belief that voter fraud is widespread.
“I’m just asking for working documents and a schedule, and if nothing is happening that should be very easy for them to produce,” he said. “If there’s nothing happening, they should be able to produce a memo saying that, and then, OK.”
He said his concerns had become heightened over the past month after his counterpart in Minnesota forwarded a flier from a conservative group, the Minnesota Voters Alliance, saying it had been invited to testify at the commission’s mid-December meeting – a meeting Dunlap still doesn’t know about, if it has been scheduled. He also said he fears the body may be intending to produce a report with only Republican voices.
“If the first time I see it is when the president of the United States is signing a bill or order, then I haven’t done my job as a commissioner,” he said.
POLITICS, OR A REAL PROBLEM?
Another Democrat on the panel, New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner, told the Press Herald on Nov. 9 that, like Dunlap, he had not received any communications from the body since he hosted its last meeting Sept. 12 in Manchester.
Trump created the commission in February to probe his unproven claims that millions of illegal voters had cost him the popular vote in 2016. At its two meetings to date, Kobach and Vice President Mike Pence, who chairs the body, have made it clear that it will focus almost entirely on voter fraud, a problem that numerous studies and probes by administrations of both parties have shown is extremely rare. And the group will not address the systematic intrusion into state election infrastructure by Russia, a problem about which Sen. Angus King of Maine, an independent, has been especially vocal.
A 2011 voter fraud investigation in Maine by Republican Secretary of State Charlie Summers found just one instance of fraud. Nationally, numerous voter fraud investigations have concluded the problem is vanishingly small, with one study by Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt finding just 31 credible allegations of identity fraud in all primary, general, special and municipal elections between 2000 and 2014, despite over a billion votes being cast.
Dunlap has said he joined the commission with an open mind and will act as a whistleblower if it engages in partisan shenanigans. But he has become much more critical of the body’s approach over the past month, saying many of his colleagues appear to define “voter fraud” to include legitimate voting by people they don’t want to see cast ballots, such as college students.
Dunlap is being represented in his lawsuit by American Oversight, a nonpartisan ethics watchdog group, and the New York law firm of Patterson Belknap.
Colin Woodard can be contacted at:
Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap is the only one who’s suing President Trump’s voter fraud commission, but he’s not the only Democratic commissioner to report being kept out of the loop: The three others say they’ve been iced out, too. (AP file photo)