President Donald Trump continued to promote baseless accusations of widespread voter fraud Wednesday at the first meeting of a commission led by politicians known for supporting voter suppression.
“This commission is tasked with the sacred duty of upholding the ballot box and the principle of ‘one citizen, one vote,’” Trump said during an address to his Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.
Though Vice President Mike Pence—the commission’s chair—claimed the group had no “preconceived notions” about where their probe would lead, several members of the group have a record of pushing voter restrictions. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, vice chairman of the committee, has an extensive history of trying to implement voter suppression measures in Kansas.
Kobach cast doubt on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 landslide popular vote win in an interview after the committee’s meeting. Kobach told NBC News that “we may never know” if Clinton tallied nearly 3 million more votes than Trump.
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The Trump administration launched its unfounded voter fraud probe in May with an executive order establishing the commission. The effort was swiftly condemned by voting and civil rights advocates who point to the lack of evidence for systemic voter fraud and worry the commission could be used to justify nationwide voter restrictions that disproportionately affect voters of color and people with low incomes.
After the commission issued a letter to voting officials in all 50 states in June requesting personal information about voters, officials in 44 states and Washington, D.C., refused to hand over at least some of that information, according to CNN.
Trump in his speech to the commission accused these states of having something to hide. “If any state does not want to share this information, one has to wonder what they’re worried about,” he said.
The commission is already facing at least seven lawsuits, according to the Washington Post. The NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund (LDF) filed a federal suit on Tuesday claiming “the commission was formed with the intent to discriminate against voters of color in violation of the Constitution.”
“This commission has one purpose: to justify voter suppression,” LDF President and Director-Counsel Sherrilyn Ifill said in a statement. “Numerous statements made by this President and his surrogates about the need for this commission—statements detailed in our complaint—support the conclusion that this commission was created to substantiate the claim that African American and Latino voters are engaged in widespread voter fraud.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) said in a statement that Trump, Pence, and others fixated on the myth of voter fraud could roll back civil rights gains. “I am old enough to remember when African Americans were denied access to the ballot box, and I fear that we are watching history repeat itself,” Cummings said. “This is a fight that will define the kind of country we will leave behind for our children and for generations yet unborn.”