Democrats on Trump’s Voting Commission Iced out Since First Meeting

Kira Lerner Political Reporter, Think Progress

When President Trump announced the formation of his Commission on Election Integrity in May, the White House said the group would “study vulnerabilities in voting systems” and “utilize all available data” in order to strengthen elections. But several Democrats serving on the bipartisan panel said they have had no voting-related communication and have been assigned no tasks since they first met in July.

“I have not received much information nor been working on much,” West Virginia county clerk Mark Rhodes told ThinkProgress on Tuesday, clarifying that by “much,” he meant anything at all.

Rhodes said commission chair Mike Pence and vice-chair Kris Kobach, Kansas’ Republican secretary of state, have given him no information about what he is supposed to be doing between meetings, and he has no idea if the co-chairs or Republican members are hard at work without Democratic input. “I honestly don’t know because I haven’t spoken to anybody else that’s on the committee,” he said.

Since the initial July 19th meeting, Kobach himself has been busy as commission co-chair. On July 26, he followed up his controversial letter requesting a massive amount of voter data from all 50 states — a request that was at least partially rejected by 44 states — with a second letter addressing the backlash and requesting publicly available voter information. Still Rhodes heard nothing.

“I’ve just been reading some articles and studies and things of that nature on my own,” he said. “Nothing assigned by the chairs.”

The only communication he has received has been regarding plans for the next meeting — Rhodes said the commissioners have been told to keep September 12th free. At that time, he hopes the co-chairs will have collected and analyzed voter data from the states so the panel can compare the numbers and begin its work.

Rhodes is one of 12 members of the commission that includes five Democrats and seven Republicans. Democratic member David Dunn also told ThinkProgress that the commission hasn’t “had a lot of communication.”

“The only information I have received was at the first meeting. Nothing else,” Dunn, a former Arkansas state legislator and government affairs lobbyist, said in an email Tuesday. “I did get an email that said to hold Sept. 12 open for another meeting. Nothing else.”

A third Democratic commissioner, Maine’s Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, told ThinkProgress that has received the same amount of information as Rhodes and Dunn. “I’ve had no more communication than them,” he said.

Dunlap also does not know if Republican members are studying any voting systems or data without input from Democrats. He said he finds it “unusual” that more than a month has gone by and he hasn’t been asked to do anything.

If any voting-related work is being conducted, it’s likely being done by Pence or Kobach, who worked without commission input when he sent a follow-up letter requesting voter data from states. Dunlap said at the time the second request for data went out that commissioners had not discussed the letter before Kobach sent it to all 50 states.

A representative for Kobach did not respond to a request for comment. Marc Lotter, the vice president’s press secretary, told ThinkProgress Tuesday that “the work continues,” but would not comment directly on why the Democrats haven’t received any communication other than logistical planning.

“I know information is going out,” he said. “There’s constant [mumble] to all the members, the work continues, and we will see them again at their next meeting here next month.”

Lotter clarified that he meant constant “communication,” contradicting the three Democratic members, and said the commissioners will “get updated on the work as it is continuing during its next meeting.” He would not say whether the co-chairs or Republicans had been conducting work without Democratic input.

“The next meeting is being scheduled as we speak,” he said. “We’ll get an update on all the relevant materials moving forward.”

It’s not difficult to imagine that Pence and Kobach are working without input from Democratic commissioners to push for voter purges or similar efforts to make it harder for people to vote. Both men have long histories when it comes to suppressing votes and advocating for policies like photo ID laws or the use of cross-check systems that result in qualified Americans being blocked from the polls.

Trump administration agencies are also working alongside the co-chairs to keep the commission’s work secret. After its Freedom of Information Act requests went unanswered, the Brennan Center for Justice announced Monday it had filed a lawsuit in federal court to compel the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Office of Management and Budget to disclose information pertaining to the commission. The advocacy group argues that the public is legally entitled to know about the group’s operations, methods, and intentions.

“When the public is not able to oversee the work of a presidential panel like this, there is a risk of abuse, which could negatively impact voting rights across the country,” Wendy Weiser, director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, said in a statement.

According to the president’s May executive order, the panel will “spend the next year completing its work and issue a report in 2018.”

***

Reposted from ThinkProgress

Kira Lerner is a Political Reporter for ThinkProgress. She previously worked as a reporter covering litigation and policy for the legal newswire Law360. She has also worked as an investigative journalist with the Chicago Innocence Project where she helped develop evidence that led to the exoneration of a wrongfully convicted man from Illinois prison. A native of the Washington, D.C. area, Kira earned her bachelor's degree at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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