President Trump announced he was disbanding his Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity Wednesday, citing a desire not to engage in “endless legal battles at taxpayer expense.”
The genesis of the commission was the president’s baseless claim that “millions” of illegal votes had cost him the popular vote in the 2016 election, in which his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton won about three million more votes. Neither the commission nor the president ever turned up evidence supporting Trump’s claim, but the panel became a source of controversy as civil liberties and voting rights groups accused the body of violating privacy protections and transparency obligations. The panel faced a number of lawsuits from groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, the Brennan Center, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, and even a Democratic member of the commission itself.
As my colleague Vann Newkirk II wrote in September, the commission was “dogged by allegations that its true purpose is not eliminating voter fraud, but instigating voter suppression.” Critics of the commission pointed to the fact that its appointees included longtime advocates of restrictive voting laws, such as Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
Civil-rights groups celebrated the end of the commission. Kristen Clarke, head of the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights, one of the groups that sued the commission, said the panel was “launched with the singular purpose of laying the groundwork to promote voter suppression policies on a national scale,” adding that its disbanding was “a victory for those who are concerned about ensuring access to the ballot box.”
Rick Hasen, an election law expert and law professor at University of California Irvine, wrote that the commission’s demise was due in part to “the light of publicity and the intense scrutiny the press and many of us gave the Commission. If they were going to provide a predicate for voter suppression, they were not going to be able to do it without a fight.”