Why is fraud panel acting in secret?

This editorial appeared in the Kennebec Journal, Maine.

You might think that a federal panel created to catch lawbreakers would scrupulously follow the law itself.

But you might want to think again. In apparent violation of federal transparency regulations, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity has been excluding some of its own members from its deliberations. Now one of them, Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, is suing to get the commission to do what it should be doing as a matter of course.

In his federal lawsuit, Dunlap outlines an information freeze that began this summer, when his communications with the panel slowed to a few emails focusing on logistics rather than fact gathering or analysis. Since Sept. 12, the date of the commission's second meeting, Dunlap has "received utterly no information or updates" of any kind, he wrote in an Oct. 17 records request prompted by a reporter's question about the arrest of a commission staffer. The secretary of state hadn't known that the staffer had been hired - let alone that the man had been arrested on child pornography charges.

Although Dunlap is the only Democratic commissioner who's suing, he's not the only one being kept out of the loop. New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner also has not heard from the commission since Sept. 12, he told the Press Herald. The same goes for other commission members.

Of the five Democrats originally named to the panel, four say they've been shut out of its activities. The fifth, David Dunn, died unexpectedly during heart surgery Oct. 16, and there's been no talk of replacing him.

The public and the Democratic commissioners have a right to know whether the co-chairmen, Vice President Mike Pence Kansas Secretary of State Kris, Kobach are conducting work without them. The co-chairs have said they take seriously the panel's specious mission — to tackle the vanishingly rare problem of voter fraud — which means they may well be working in secret on initiatives aimed at voter suppression.

Kobach and other true believers have already used their baseless concerns to justify mandatory photo-ID laws and other regulations that serve only to keep likely Democratic voters from casting a ballot.

We're happy that Maine's secretary of state is putting the pressure on, and we hope that his legal fight forces the commission to make clear how far it will go in its fact-averse quest to disenfranchise legitimate voters.

 

The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.

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