‘There Was No Warning’: Defunct Voter Fraud Commission Members Speaks Out

Newly-elected Secretary of State Matt Dunlap is stands after the results were announced Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012  during a joint convention to elect constitutional officers in Augusta, Maine. (AP Photo/Joel Page)
Joel Page/FR23211 AP

At least two members of President Donald Trump’s now-defunct voter fraud commission said they and other members found out about the panel’s abrupt dissolution through media reports.

“There was no warning. They didn’t give us a heads up that the President’s considering shutting it down or anything like that,” Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, one of four Democrats on the commission when it ended, told Politico.

The outlet reported that Dunlap said he’d learned of the news “the same way reporters did: via a news release.”

Another member of the commission, Jefferson County, Alabama Presiding Probate Judge Alan King, told Al.com Wednesday night that “this came out of the blue.”

King, a Democrat, compared the commission’s work to a “wild goose chase” and said “I think it’s an urban legend that there’s widespread voter fraud in the U.S.”

“Throughout my career I have been involved in civic groups, church groups, high school groups, that were run better than this commission. And to say that is a disappointment would be an understatement,” he added.

And WMUR reported that New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner, a Democrat, had told the station Wednesday, before the commission was dissolved, that “he had not heard from the commission staff or other members in several months, but he said that as far as he knew, it was still intact.”

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who led the commission and is known for his zeal for voter suppression techniques, said the decision to the end the panel came in “the middle of the day.”

“Think of it as an option play; a decision was made in the middle of the day to pass the ball,” he told the New York Times. “The Department of Homeland Security is going to be able to move faster and more efficiently than a presidential advisory commission.”

At 6:45 p.m. ET, TPM received a press release from White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announcing the commission’s closure, and that the Department of Homeland Security would “review [the commission’s] initial findings and determine next courses of action.”

At 7:16 p.m., TPM received the executive order referenced in Sanders’ statement formally revoking the commission’s founding order.

Asked whether members of the commission were given advance warning of its imminent closure, DHS spokesperson Tyler Houlton told TPM, “This is a question for the White House.” White House spokespeople did not immediately return requests for comment.

The White House, Dunlap and Kobach all said the commission’s legal troubles — including a lawsuit from Dunlap himself, which he referenced — had spelled trouble for the body.

“When we got that court ruling, I thought maybe they’ll just throw the commission in the of corner and take this on through some other tack,” Dunlap told Politico, referring to his own lawsuit.

“It got to the point where the staff of the commission was spending more time responding to litigation than doing an investigation,” Kobach told the Times. He had told the Topeka Capital-Journal, for an article published Dec. 30, that the commission should meet again in January.

The White House in its statement blamed “many states” who had refused to provide it “with basic information relevant to its inquiry.”

“Rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense, today President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order to dissolve the Commission,”  the statement added.

The President himself weighed in as well, Thursday morning.

This post has been updated.

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