Washington, DC (July 18, 2017)—Today, Reps. Elijah E.
Cummings, John Conyers, Jr., Bennie G. Thompson, and Robert A. Brady, Ranking
Members of the House Committees on Oversight and Government Reform, Judiciary,
Homeland Security, and House Administration, sent a letter to Vice President Michael Pence requesting
that he ask for the resignation of Kris Kobach from his position as the Vice Chair
of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, and that he
rescind Mr. Kobach’s unprecedented request for sensitive voter information.
“Mr. Kobach has repeatedly claimed, falsely, that widespread
voter fraud exists and advertises his work on the Commission to promote his own
campaign for governor of Kansas,” the Members wrote. “These actions undermine
the integrity of the Commission and raise significant concerns that the
Commission will be used as a tool for voter suppression.”
Cummings, Conyers, Thompson, and Brady stated that Mr.
Kobach appeared to violate the Hatch Act by using his official role on the
Commission to further his 2018 gubernatorial campaign and solicit campaign
contributions campaign website that tout his work on the Commission.
“Mr. Kobach’s partisan activity and his recent sanctions for
dishonesty before a court of law cast a shadow over the Commission and
undermine its integrity,” the Members wrote. “Mr. Kobach should step down as
Vice-Chair and be replaced with an individual who can be trusted to ensure that
the Commission operates in a bipartisan manner to protect voter information and
to protect the right of Americans to vote.”
Cummings, Conyers, Thompson, and Brady expressed grave
concerns with Mr. Kobach’s unprecedented request on behalf of the Commission
for sensitive voter data, its failure to specify how that information would be
used, its failure to provide clear or sufficient safeguards to protect
sensitive voter information, and the Commission’s initial secret phone call
that appears to violate the Federal Advisory Committee Act.
“These actions openly flout federal privacy and transparency
laws,” the Members wrote. “The Commission has not offered any plan to
protect its proposed nation-wide voter database, even after federal officials
have confirmed that voter databases in at least 21 states were hacked in last
year’s election by Russia.”
The Members explained that Mr. Kobach’s request has deeply
alarmed voters, who are reportedly contacting election officials with
fears about the Administration’s intent and requesting to cancel their voter registrations to
protect private data.
“We have serious concerns that Mr. Kobach’s purpose in
gathering state voter rolls is to conduct a data-matching project that matches
each state voter list with other federal databases, in an attempt to discover
and then potentially purge purported ‘fraudulent registrations,’” The Members
wrote. “The Commission should explore increasing access to voting, not
perpetuating the false and damaging notion that massive voter fraud exists in
our nation’s elections. We will fiercely oppose any attempt by this Administration
to suppress the vote and undermine the protections guaranteed by the U.S.
Constitution, the National Voter Registration Act, the Voting Rights Act, and
other important voter protection laws.”
The Members requested that Pence address several questions
about the Commission at its upcoming meeting on July 19, including how it will
ensure future compliance with privacy and transparency laws. They also
requested documents relating to the purpose of the Commission and how it plans
to use state voter information.
Recent reports show that Kris Kobach has
proposed making voter registration requirements much stricter – potentially
limiting access to the ballot box. In addition to today’s letter, the
Congressional Black Caucus and House Judiciary Committee Democrats will host a
forum today at 3 p.m. to examine concerns related to Kobach’s requests and
proposal. You can view the forum on the House Judiciary Democrats’ Facebook page.