The vice chairman of the controversial government commission President Donald Trump has charged with investigating alleged vote fraud in last year's U.S. elections said Tuesday there is a "high possibility" the panel will complete its work without making any recommendations.
Kris Kobach, a Republican who is the secretary of state in the Midwestern state of Kansas, discussed the commission's work after meetings in Manchester, New Hampshire.
"All the commission is doing is collecting data," Kobach said. "It may make recommendations, or I think at this point there's a high possibility the commission makes no recommendations and they just say, 'Here's the data. States, do with it what you want.'"
Trump formed the commission to support his professed belief that his presidential opponent last year, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, won millions of votes from people who were not authorized to vote, had not properly registered as voters or voted multiple times. The president has never presented any evidence to substantiate his claim, but expected an investigation to corroborate his theory.
The real-estate magnate won the White House in a vote by the Electoral College, the body established under the Constitution that formally selects the U.S. president.The Electoral College vote usually mirrors the outcome of the U.S. popular vote, but not always.
Last year, the final count from the November presidential ballot showed that Democrat Hillary Clinton won nearly three million more votes than Trump - 65,853,516 to 62,984,825.
The president's claims, and his appointed commission, have been widely and repeatedly criticized by many political analysts and experts in the United States - not all of them Democrats.
When the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity was established four months ago, Kobach asked authorities in every U.S. state to turn over complete records of everyone who voted in those jurisdictions, with full personal details - a demand that was immediately rejected by the states, almost unanimously.Complaints and concerns that states used to justify their refusal to cooperate with Kobach's investigators included the threat of computer hacks, and equally widespread concerns about the federal government amassing too much personal information in one database.
Some groups that saw an ideological motive in the Trump commission's work said they suspected it was trying to make voting more difficult in many jurisdictions, and thus to discourage members of racial, ethnic or political minorities from casting their ballots - a process known as voter suppression.
The head of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law said Tuesday her group felt that was clearly the case: The presidential panel "lacked diversity, facts, or actual solutions to support our democracy and combat voting discrimination, that we know prevents racial minorities from voting," Kristen Clarke said.
Members of the American Civil Liberties Union and the civil-rights group the NAACP said they will seek the dissolution of the voter fraud panel for the same reasons, that its alleged aim was voter suppression.
Kobach paused Tuesday's commission meeting in Manchester to explain - and effectively withdraw - allegations he made last week. He contended at the time that New Hampshire's voter-registration process allowed many people from other states to cast ballots last November, and that "appears" to have resulted in the Democratic candidate's victory in a U.S. Senate race.
Since last week, Kobach apparently learned that authorities in New Hampshire, a state long known for political conservatism, had formally agreed that prospective voters could register as New Hampshire residents by presenting documents showing their prior residency in other states - driving licenses, in most cases - as long as they considered their domiciles to be in New Hampshire.
Thousands of college and university students, previously residents of other states, registered to vote in New Hampshire under a state law that explicitly approved presentation of out-of-state driving licenses as certified proof of their identity.
Under the circumstances, Kobach said Tuesday, he might have chosen the wrong word when he said it "appears" unauthorized votes turned the tide of the Senate election last November.