Last Wednesday, the US Presidential Advisory Commission on Electoral Integrity (PACEI) held its first meeting, with many election experts and political observers anxious to get clarity on the group’s composition and stated objectives. But even before its first meeting, experts have called it a sham and orchestrated chaos, and have accused it of breaking the law. Our assessment of the first meeting is that, as currently structured, the commission will almost certainly create more problems than it solves. The most remarkable thing about the first meeting is not who was there and what was said, but rather who was not there and what was not said. Election integrity commissions are traditionally bipartisan affairs, and have been led by major figures from both parties, like Jimmy Carter and Jim Baker. This commission is headed by Republicans Kris Kobach and Vice-President Mike Pence. Only two notable Democrats, Maine and New Hampshire Secretaries of State Matt Dunlap and Bill Gardner, have agreed to serve on the 15-member panel.
But by far the most glaring omission in membership concerns people who can most effectively evaluate data on elections and voter fraud: election scientists. The last commission, headed by Obama White House Counsel Bob Bauer and Mitt Romney’s election lawyer Ben Ginsberg, brought on Stanford political scientist Nathaniel Persily to direct research.
Persily is an expert with a reputation for impartial, careful work. The new commission currently has no political scientists or election experts needed to investigate allegations of voter fraud or voter suppression. Instead, President Trump has packed the commission with attorneys like J. Christian Adams, Hans von Spakovsky, and Christy McCormick, all of whom have specialized in bringing unsupported allegations of voter fraud, and are outspoken advocates for more restrictive voter eligibility requirements.