President Trump’s controversial Election Integrity Commission won’t be probing Russian infiltration of state election systems after all. At the commission’s inaugural meeting Wednesday in Washington – which the president briefly attended to push his evidence-free theory that the 2016 election was tainted widespread voter fraud – Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap raised the subject, but agreed with his colleagues to instead rely on any information a Senate probe into Russian interference in the election might provide. “The Senate Intelligence Committee will keep us apprised on what they find and we can work it into our report,” Dunlap told the Press Herald shortly after the meeting concluded. “We don’t have to do our separate investigations. I don’t think we are equipped to do that.” The substantive part of the meeting focused on what actions the commission should take now that most states have rejected its request for voter registration information, with commissioners brainstorming on what data the federal government already had in its possession and how it might be used to explore voter fraud concerns.
Near the end of the meeting, Dunlap raised the possibility of the panel looking at Russia’s attempts to infiltrate state election infrastructure, as he has previously said he would. But the group resolved to rely on the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation and not explore the issue itself.
Sen. Angus King of Maine sits on the committee and the classified briefings the independent has received have led him to vigorously argue for federal action to protect local election systems from infiltration and possible tampering by Russia or other actors. He’s asked his Senate colleagues to devote $160 million to replace voting machines that do not have paper ballots or backups with ones that do, and to fund post-election audits that would detect any discrepancies between automated vote counts and the paper evidence.