Kobach voting panel retreats — for now — amid opposition, lawsuits

The last ten days have seen a flurry of news about the White House’s voter fraud commission — much of it unwelcome for those running the effort.

Here are the key developments:

• A federal court on Friday heard arguments in a lawsuit challenging the commission’s controversial request for voter information from all 50 states, which critics fear could be the start of an effort to knock voters off the rolls. The Electronic Privacy Information Center alleges that the commission hasn’t established adequate safeguards for the data as required by federal law, and it wants a temporary restraining order issued to block the request. U.S District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly has said she plans to issue a written opinion in the coming days.

• The lawsuit already has had an effect. On Monday, the commission told state election officials it was putting the request for data on hold as it waits for Kollar-Kotelly’s ruling.

• Also Monday, the White House announced two new members of the commission: J. Christian Adams, a former Justice Department lawyer who nows runs a conservative legal group that has pushed states to pare their voter rolls; and Alabama probate judge Alan Lamar King. The feisty Adams — who’s no fan of ours — is best known for quitting DoJ over the Obama administration’s handling of the 2008 “New Black Panther” voting case. His appointment means that, along with Vice Chair Kris Kobach and Hans von Spakovsky, the commission now includes perhaps the three most important leaders of the modern movement to raise fears about illegal voting and build support for voting restrictions.

• Two more lawsuits were filed Monday against the commission, one by the ACLU and one by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Both allege that in its first telephone meeting earlier this month, the panel violated federal transparency laws that require it to hold all meetings in public with advanced notice, and to make records of the meetings publicly available. The Lawyers Committee suit additionally claims that Kobach, the panel’s de facto leader, is illegally using his role on the commission to raise money and build support for his campaign for Kansas governor.

• Good government groups also have filed a complaint with the Office of Management and Budget, claiming that the commission has violated the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980, which imposes certain requirements on those making large information requests, none of which Kobach et al appear to have met.

• A coalition of more than 200 national organizations sent a letter to state election officials urging them not to comply with the commission’s request for data. Numerous states already had said they won’t comply.

• A group of Democratic senators is demanding that the commission withdraw its request for voter information, warning that it “risks the improper removal of eligible voters from voter registration lists.”

• The commission plans to store the reams of sensitive voter data that it’s requested on White House computers under the supervision of a staffer for Vice President Mike Pence, the administration revealed in a court filing.

• A spokesman for Pence confirmed what The Daily Democracy predicted last month: that the commission plans to try to root out ineligible voters by comparing the voter data it gets from states with information in federal databases — a method likely to yield numerous false positives.

• One commissioner, Maryland Deputy Secretary of State Luis Borunda, resigned from the panel. Borunda had no experience in election administration, raising questions about why he was appointed in the first place. A White House spokesman said Borunda cited the “workload” as the reason for stepping down.

 

Photo Credit: Creative Commons

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