As President Trump’s voter fraud commission prepared to convene in New Hampshire this week, it already faced questions about its seriousness of purpose and whether it was a hopelessly biased endeavor. Then things got worse. An email surfaced in which the Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky, one of the commission’s most conservative members, lamented that Trump was appointing Democrats and “mainstream” Republicans to the bipartisan panel. Its vice chairman, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), drew rebukes from voting rights advocates — and a couple of fellow commissioners — for an article he wrote for the hard-right Breitbart News website. The article asserted, without proof, that voter fraud had likely changed the result in New Hampshire’s most recent U.S. Senate race. A third Republican on the panel, J. Christian Adams of Virginia, later feuded on Twitter with a journalist, questioning whether she had lied about her academic credentials. She had not.
The fresh controversies angered some Democratic commissioners already feeling heat from their party for being on Trump’s commission, which critics say is really aimed at making it more difficult to vote. Even some Republicans following the commission and sympathetic to its mission said it may now face an even tougher job of selling any recommendations it crafts.
“Let’s just say the execution has been less than perfect,” said Barry Bennett, a campaign adviser to Trump last year. The ongoing “fusses” could make it more difficult for the commission to make its case, Bennett said.
The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity was formed in response to Trump’s baseless claim that millions of illegally cast ballots cost him the popular vote against Hillary Clinton last year. Leading members — including Vice President Pence, who serves nominally as chairman — have nevertheless insisted they launched their work with no preconceived notions and would follow the facts wherever they might lead.