The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity met for the first time Wednesday, as President Donald Trump again pushed his unfounded claim that widespread voter fraud took place in the 2016 election. The voter fraud commission’s first formal meeting came three weeks after Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach — one of the panel’s vice chairmen, along with Vice President Mike Pence — penned a letter to all 50 states requesting that they turn over key voter information. So far, at least 24 states have said they’ll comply with the request, though there is no evidence of Mr. Trump’s claims that “millions” of people voted illegally last year and cost him the popular vote. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have refused to comply with the request, which sparked a flurry of lawsuits from groups like the American Civil Liberties Union. At the meeting Wednesday, Trump suggested that the states that haven’t complied have something to hide. “What are they worried about? There’s something. There always is,” Trump said. As more states and advocacy groups wade into the debate, here is a closer look at the commission, how voter records are collected and stored across the country, and how the White House could potentially use the data to its advantage.
When Trump issued an executive order establishing the commission in May, it came with a mandate to investigate “improper and fraudulent” voter registration and voting. Trump lost the national popular vote to Hillary Clinton by 2.8 million votes, and in the months since the election he has repeatedly claimed that undocumented immigrants and others voted illegally to tip the popular vote in Clinton’s favor.
But most election experts agree that voter fraud is so rare in the United States that it doesn’t impact electoral outcomes at the state or federal level. “As attorney general of Arizona for eight years, I uncovered only one or two isolated instances of voter fraud, virtually none in the overall context,” Terry Goddard, a former attorney general of Arizona, said in an interview.
Indeed, a review of the 2016 presidential election found just four cases of documented voter fraud out of more than 134 million ballots cast.