Political News

Voting commission member calls for hard-liner's resignation after email

Posted September 18, 2017 9:32 p.m. EDT

A member of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity is calling on a voter fraud hard-liner to resign from the panel after a controversial email he sent about the panel's makeup became public.

Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said it remains "an open question" whether the commission can continue its mission and stopped short of demanding Heritage Foundation expert Hans von Spakovsky step down -- but said "certainly" he should start with an apology.

At issue is an email sent by von Spakovsky to the Justice Department in February that was made public in a Freedom of Information Act request by the Campaign Legal Center last week. Von Spakovsky was named to the commission in June.

In the email, which made its way to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, von Spakovsky says he had received a "very disturbing phone call" that the commission would be "bipartisan and include Democrats."

"There isn't a single Democratic official that will do anything other than obstruct any investigation of voter fraud and issue constant public announcements criticizing the commission and what it is doing," von Spakovsky wrote. "If they are picking mainstream Republican officials and/or academics to man this commission it will be an abject failure because there aren't any that know anything about this or who have paid any attention to the issue over the years."

Dunlap told CNN: "I think this email that he sent is really quite damaging to the relationships on the commission. It undermines the statement of the vice president that there are no foregone conclusions, and it undermines the chair and the vice chair and the rest of the commission."

A Heritage spokesman for Von Spakovsky said he had no plans to resign and declined further comment. Neither Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, vice chairman of the panel, nor the office of the vice president, who chairs the panel, responded to requests for comment.

Von Spakovsky and Kobach are known advocates for the idea that voter fraud is widespread and proponents of tough voting laws to limit such fraud -- an assertion that has not been backed up by virtually any credible study of the issue. President Donald Trump established the commission to look into the integrity of elections after making repeated assertions that there were millions of illegal votes cast in 2016, a claim that has also been debunked and is not supported by evidence.

Von Spakovsky's email served as confirmation to critics of the panel that the objective was to back up the President's claims, though the commission's organizers insist there are no predrawn conclusions.

"If we are going to continue, von Spakovsky has a lot of explaining to do to Democrats on the panel and anyone he classifies as a mainstream Republican," Dunlap said, insisting that despite his party affiliation, he works with members of all parties as secretary of state. "That's what makes me feel so offended by that statement that no Democrat should participate, because it's a foregone conclusion how a Democrat's going to think about this."

"It's really not my call to say somebody should resign," Dunlap continued. "I think if the guy had any dignity after all this, he would."

The panel last met in New Hampshire last week, its second meeting. A third meeting has not been scheduled.