In a surprise appearance at the first public meeting of the Commission on Election Integrity on Wednesday, President Donald Trump questioned the motives of state officials who refused to comply with the commission’s requests for voter data.
“If any state does not want to share this information, one has to wonder what they’re worried about,” Trump said. “What are they worried about? There’s something. There always is.”
The commission sent a letter to all 50 states on June 28, asking for publicly available voter data. Although states are mandated by federal law to keep public records of voter registration and make them available to federal authorities upon request, at least 15 states refused to comply with the request.
In 12 out of those 15 refusals, Democratic secretaries of state and governors are in charge of dispensing the records. Meanwhile, Republican state officials make up the vast majority of the decision-makers among the more than 30 states that have agreed to comply.
Trump formed the bipartisan Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity via an executive order on May 11. The president believes that millions of people may have voted illegally in the 2016 election and formed the commission to investigate potential fraud and improve Americans’ faith in the elections.
“Every time voter fraud occurs it cancels out the vote of a lawful citizen and undermines democracy. Can’t let that happen,” Trump said at the commission meeting.
“Any form of illegal or fraudulent voting whether by non-citizens or the diseased and any form of voter suppression or intimidation must be stopped.”
More than 1,000 cases of voter fraud were recorded in a sampling collected by the Heritage Foundation, leading to 938 convictions. In Virginia alone, non-citizens cast 7,474 illegal votes. In Kansas, the home state of the commission Vice Chair Kris Kobach, an expert estimated that up to 18,000 non-citizens are illegally registered to vote.
A 2012 Pew study found that 1.8 million diseased people were registered to vote and that 2.75 million people were registered to vote in more than one precinct.
“This issue is very important to me because throughout the campaign and even after it, people would come up to me and express their concerns about voter inconsistencies and irregularities which they saw, in some cases having to do with a very large number of people in certain states,” Trump said.
Vice President Mike Pence is chair of the commission. He led the opening statement with an assurance that the commission has “no preconceived notions and no preordained results.”
“This is a bipartisan group that will perform a non-partisan service to the American people,” Pence said.