WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump kicked off the first meeting of his voter fraud panel Wednesday by questioning the motives of New York and other states refusing to comply with its request for extensive voter information.
Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, chairman of the Advisory Commission on Voter Integrity, urged the panel’s members to follow the facts wherever they lead, though many of them Wednesday called for stringent vetting of voter lists.
“I’m pleased that more than 30 states have already agreed to share the information with the commission and the other states,” Trump said, touching on the panel’s controversial voter data request spawning at least seven lawsuits.
“If any state does not want to share this information, one has to wonder what they’re worried about,” he added. “And I asked the vice president, I asked the commission: ‘What are they worried about?’ There’s something. There always is.”
Elizabeth Bibi, a spokeswoman for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, said, “We’re not worried. We are just fulfilling our own obligations to protect privacy rights of our voters.”
Cuomo stands by his June 30 statement saying he will not comply with the request for “sensitive voter information” such as partial Social Security numbers that he’s barred by state law from sharing, especially without any evidence of massive voter fraud, Bibi said.
Trump created the bipartisan panel in May after insisting he would have won the popular vote if as many as 5 million people hadn’t voted illegally. Democrat Hillary Clinton won nearly 3 million more votes than he did.
Before the meeting, Democrats accused Trump of setting up the panel to find ways to restrict voting rights. “I can tell you, President Trump, that we will be watching your commission,” Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.) said at news conference.
Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state who runs the panel as vice chair, proposed an agenda for the panel that would focus on vetting and cleaning voter lists, fraudulent voting, problems with voting by mail, cybersecurity of voter databases and voter intimidation.
“The United States has a long history of fraud,” said panel member Hans von Spakovsky, a former Justice Department official, who, like Kobach, advocates photo ids and citizenship proof for voters.
Von Spakovsky, a fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, cited the think tank’s report that found 1,071 election fraud cases.
The report cites 21 cases dating back to 1983 in New York, where 7.8 million people voted in the 2016 presidential election. A third of the cases were for forging signatures on nominating petitions, not for illegal voting.
It also includes the 1997 conviction of Brooklyn lawyer and politician John O’Hara for illegally voting from his girlfriend’s address — a conviction dismissed in January.