ThinkProgress

Member of Trump voting commission said including ‘mainstream Republicans’ would be ‘abject failure’

Former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, founder of "Let America Vote" speaks to protesters gathered outside Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017. Kander and others were protesting a meeting of the Trump administration's commission on voter fraud, which they argue is designed to suppress voting. (AP Photo/Holly Ramer)

One of the members of Trump’s voter fraud commission wrote a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions to push back against any Democrats being named to take part in the investigation.

The Presidential Advisory Committee on Election Integrity was established by Trump in May, purportedly to look into Trump’s evidence-free claim that up to five million people voted illegally in the 2016 election. The commission, which studies “vulnerabilities in voting systems”, is headed by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Vice President Mike Pence.

But it has been plagued by claims of hyper-partisanship and pursuing unsubstantiated rumors, which this letter only reinforces. The author was later confirmed to be Hans von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation, who previously managed the right wing think-tanks’s Law Reform Initiative. He wrote that it was “very disturbing” to hear the commission was going to be made bipartisan. “There isn’t a single Democratic official that will do anything other than obstruct any investigation of voter fraud and issue constant public announcements criticizing the commission and what it is doing,” the letter, obtained after an FOIA by the Campaign Legal Center, read.

“If they [the White House] are picking mainstream Republican officials and/or academics to man this commission it will be an abject failure,” it continued. “There aren’t any that know anything about this or who have paid any attention to this issue over the years.”

The letter went on to claim that The Heritage Foundation employee, along with two of his colleagues, have “written more on the voter fraud issue than anyone in the country on our side of the political aisle.”

The letter from February 22, which has only just surfaced after the Department of Justice responded to the Freedom of Information request, appears to have positioned Heritage to take part in the Election Integrity Commission. The right wing think tank has aggressively pursued voter fraud, creating a database with more than 1,000 documented examples which the Brennan Center for Justice calls “grossly exaggerated and devoid of context”.

The positioning paid off. In June Trump named von Spakovsky, who had for years said there is a massive potential for voter fraud, to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. “In our era of razor-thin election margins, these issue are vital to the preservation of our republican form of government,” he said on the Foundation’s website.

The new revelations come after Kobach was repudiated by voting experts for his outlandish claim in a Breitbart column hat 5,000 out-of-state voters cast ballots in New Hampshire in 2016.

In response to the revelations, a Heritage Foundation spokesperson described the think-tank as “scrupulously nonpartisan”. “Hans von Spakovsky is a former member of the Federal Election Commission and has managed our Election Law Reform Initiative for many years,” the spokesperson added. “He brings a wealth of knowledge and insight to the discussion of voter fraud, and holds strong views on the topic. The views expressed in the email are his own.”

This piece has been updated to reflect the Heritage Foundation confirming Hans von Spakovsky authored the letter, and to include the think-tank’s statement.