WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law on Friday filed a lawsuit against the Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Homeland Security (DHS) for blocking the public release of information related to their efforts to investigate unfounded claims of voter fraud, including by coordinating with the now-defunct Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. The lawsuit was filed one day after news reports revealed that former Commission Vice Chair and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach exposed the personally identifiable information of thousands of Kansas state employees.
During its existence, the so-called Commission on Election Integrity operated under a cloud of pervasive secrecy, in violation of federal law, and refused to make almost all of its records available to the public. After disbanding earlier this month, Kobach and senior White House officials indicated that the Commission was sending its preliminary findings to DHS for further review. Since then, the Administration has repeatedly shifted its public statements regarding the retention of the Commission’s work and continued to deny even the most basic requests for information.
“Since disbanding the Commission, the Administration has doubled down in denying basic requests for information and misleading the public. Yet we know from our previous litigation that the Commission communicated with government agencies in a dangerous attempt to compare personal voter information with inaccurate databases to bolster President Trump’s unfounded claim of widespread voter fraud to ultimately promote efforts to suppress the right to vote,” said Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
Clarke added: “This Administration may choose to ignore reasonable requests for information about its work, but it cannot ignore a court order that mandates the production of records on matters that impact the voting rights of millions of Americans. Through our lawsuit, we seek to expose the ways in which other federal agencies may be working to carry forth the Commission’s unlawful activities. We will continue to use the courts to hold this Administration accountable.”
The DOJ and DHS have failed to provide a meaningful response to multiple Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests submitted by the Lawyers’ Committee last year. The new lawsuit filed on Friday with co-counsel Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP in the United States District Court for District of Columbia concerns the Trump administration’s repeated failure to abide by basic requirements of openness and transparency.
“The suit seeks information regarding efforts by DOJ and DHS to coordinate their work with the now-defunct Commission,” said Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer partner John A. Freedman.
Revelations about the Commission’s inner-workings released last year in response to a separate lawsuit filed by the Lawyers’ Committee indicated that Kobach, a known vote suppressor, communicated exclusively with partisan allies regarding the Commission’s work, to the exclusion of other Commissioners. As a result, Matthew Dunlap, Secretary of State of Maine and member of the Commission, filed his own lawsuit against the Trump administration alleging violations of the Federal Advisory Committee Act. These lawsuits were instrumental in bringing needed transparency to the Commission, leading to its demise.
To read the complaint filed Friday, click here.