The American Civil Liberties Union sued President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence Monday over a presidential advisory commission the ACLU says was established for the “purpose of providing a veneer of legitimacy to President Trump’s false claim that he won the popular vote in the 2016 election.”
The 31-page complaint also names as a defendant the commission itself — the so-called Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which was established after Trump signed an executive order in May. The ACLU contends that it violates the Federal Advisory Committee Act due to its alleged failure to be transparent and inform the American public about its activity.
That law also requires a federal advisory committee’s membership to be “fairly balanced in terms of the points of view represented,” and the ACLU argues that the commission, fronted by Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, “is stacked with individuals who have endorsed the President’s false statements about the popular vote.”
As a result, the ACLU says, “no provisions whatsoever have been made to insulate the Commission’s advice and recommendations from inappropriate influence by the person who appointed the Commission’s members — i.e., President Trump himself.”
Late last month, Kobach sent out a letter to all 50 states and the District of Columbia asking them to turn over voter roll information, including names, birth dates, addresses, party affiliations, voting histories, military and felon statuses, and Social Security numbers.
The flurry of letters, some of which were sent to the wrong officials, immediately set off alarm bills among civil rights groups. So far, at least 48 states have refused to comply in full with Kobach’s request; most have agreed to provide the information that is already publically available under state laws.
Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer rights advocacy group, filed suit separately on Monday under the Privacy Act in an effort to block the Pentagon from giving information to the commission regarding voters’ military status. A coalition of voting and civil rights groups in Florida has also filed a suit seeking to block the commission from collecting some information.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a nonprofit focusing on civil liberties, sued the Commission on July 3, arguing that Kobach’s request violated the E-Government Act of 2002. That law requires a Privacy Impact Assessment to be completed before the federal government can engage in actions that may impinge upon privacy.
ProPublica’s Jessica Huseman reported on Monday that the commission sent a letter to states asking them to refrain from sending data until the EPIC lawsuit is resolved.