The so-called Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, headed by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, asked states to submit their voter rolls for examination over the summer of 2017. However, states refused to participate, leading to the commission’s dissolution.
Kobach initially asked other secretaries of state to send voter information via unencrypted email, including partial Social Security numbers and voting histories, Gizmodo reported. The commission also proposed using a file transfer system developed for the United States Army but did not provide state officials with instructions on its use. Ultimately, the commission decided it would propose a third data-transfer option, sources told Gizmodo in July, but that option seems to have never fully materialized.
The backlash against the commission was swift. It was widely criticized for its lack of basic cybersecurity, and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) sued in an effort to block the commission’s data collection. Voters also objected colorfully to the commission’s work, calling the project and its leaders in emails “evil,” a “shit-stain,” and “stupid mean fucking assholes.”
Although EPIC’s lawsuit to block the data collection failed, the commission is now shuttering because state officials did not want to participate. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia declined to participate in the commission’s inquiry.
“Despite substantial evidence of voter fraud, many states have refused to provide the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity with basic information relevant to its inquiry,” the White House said in a statement to Politico. “Rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense, today I signed an executive order to dissolve the Commission, and have asked the Department of Homeland Security to review these issues and determine next courses of action.”
“This commission was flawed from the start, led by the wrong people pushing the wrong agenda,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, president of the DC watchdog group Common Cause.
One of the commission’s members, Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, filed a lawsuit in November alleging that Kobach and other Republican members had withheld key information about the commission’s activities, preventing Dunlap from performing his duties. “It’s no coincidence that the president dissolved the commission once it became clear it wouldn’t be permitted to operate in the shadows,” said Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight, a non-partisan watchdog group that represented Dunlap alongside the law firm Patterson Belknap.
Added Evers: “Secretary Dunlap deserves our gratitude for stepping into the breach to take on adversaries of democracy. We intend to continue to fight for his right to access to the commission’s secret communications. President Trump can dissolve the commission, but the law doesn’t allow him or the commission to slink away from view and avoid accountability.“
The commission was originally intended to emulate the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program—or simply “Crosscheck”—except on the federal level. The Crosscheck program, which was launched by the Kansas Secretary of State’s office, has been administered by Kobach since 2011. The program’s methods are scientifically unsound and, according to peer-reviewed research, produce false positives for double voters roughly 99 percent of the time. Concerns over the inaccuracies of Crosscheck’s data, as well as poor security around the program, have led many states to abandon it.
Investigations by Gizmodo and ProPublica two months ago revealed an alarming number of security flaws in the Crosscheck system and the network on which it exists. Kansas officials reportedly agreed to circulate—before the end of 2017—updated guidelines to Crosscheck participating states outlining how changes to the program will keep voter data (including tens of thousands of Social Security numbers submitted by several states) secure from hackers, breaches, and leaks.
As of earlier this week, no additional guidance on the handling of voter data has been issued. Participating states typically submit their voter files to Crosscheck’s servers every year this month.