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07 January 2018, 09:26 | Darnell Patrick
John Hanna AP
President Donald Trump abruptly shut down his signature voter fraud commission on Wednesday and instead kicked the issue to the Department of Homeland Security.
"As Americans, you need identification, sometimes in a very strong and accurate form, for nearly everything you do...except when it comes to the most important thing, VOTING for the people that run your country".
While dissolving the commission, the administration did not concede the rarity of voter fraud in modern American elections.
America's population is changing, and the nation's voting electorate is changing along with it.
From the beginning, the commission has been heavily criticized for seeking massive amounts of voter data from every state.
"I'm thrilled that the commission has been disbanded, but also will definitely keep an eye on what it is that these players will do in the next steps", said Katherine Culliton-González, senior counsel for Demos, a public policy group.
From the start, critics had called the commission a sham and civil rights and good-government groups sued.
A number of Republican-run state legislatures have passed new voter identification laws of the kind backed by Trump. It is quite another thing for that agency to divert its attention to the pursuit of discredited theories of widespread voter fraud, with the intent of stopping eligible voters - disproportionately minority voters - from voting.
On Thursday, Trump turned his attention to stronger voter ID laws.
Democrats and voting rights groups were quick to cheer the panel's demise.
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"The President's Election Integrity Commission was a vehicle launched with the singular objective of laying the groundwork to promote voter suppression policies on a national scale", said Kristen Clarke, the president and executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
"Despite substantial evidence of voter fraud, many states have refused to provide the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity with basic information relevant to its inquiry", Trump said in a White House statement. "They fought hard that the Commission not see their records or methods because they know that many people are voting illegally", he posted just after 6 a.m. "System is rigged, must go to Voter I.D.", Trump tweeted.
The commission was touted by the White House as bipartisan but was led by Vice President Pence and Kansas Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has long claimed there is widespread voter fraud by noncitizens despite providing no evidence of any such improprieties and only prosecuting a few fraud cases in Kansas.
"The obstacles and impediments used to hinder the work of the Commission is evidence that there are many politicians and activists who want to prevent the American people from finding out the truth", Von Spakovsky wrote.
President Trump has previously alleged "millions" of people voted illegally in the 2016 election.
Kobach told the Topeka Capital-Journal last week that although the commission's work had been delayed because of the lawsuits, it would meet in January.
The Department of Homeland Security will reportedly assume the functions of the commission. "We will continue to scrutinize this administration's continued assault on the right to vote".
The Lawyer's Committee brought one of the lawsuits against the commission a year ago.
Among her concerns is that DHS may try to get voter information from states. "I think it is highly improper to use DHS to further the failed and misguided attempts of the commission".
"The Democrats, both on and off the commission, made very clear that they were not interested in determining the scope and extent of voter fraud and, indeed, they were trying to stop the commission in its tracks", Kobach said.
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