The ACLU has filed a federal lawsuit against President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and the Commission on Election Integrity over concerns about a lack of transparency. But Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, who serves on the newly-formed commission, says there is no effort to shut out the public.
In its lawsuit, the ACLU says the Commission held its first meeting without public notice or access and has failed to make transcripts and other records available to the public. With its second meeting a little over a week away, Zach Heiden of the ACLU of Maine says he wants a judge to intervene to ensure the proceedings are open.
“And that the committee itself isn’t influenced by partisan concerns,” says Heiden.
He says the lawsuit also alleges that instead of being formed as an independent advisory committee as required by law, the Commission’s purpose is to legitimize Trump’s claim that once illegal votes are subtracted from the presidential election, it will show that he, not Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in 2016.
“The true threat to our elections right now is voter suppression, not allegations of voter fraud,” Heiden says. “But throughout our history, people have used the myth of voter fraud as an excuse to further suppress the vote, and that’s what we’re really concerned about.”
Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap says he and other members of the Commisison are not attempting to shut the public out of its process. That first meeting, he says, was a conference call that dealt with administrative tasks.
“The first thing they said when they started the conference call is that we can’t talk about anything of substance on this call because it’s not open or public,” Dunlap says. “Which I thought was rather encouraging that they wanted to conduct the work of the Commission in an open and public way.”
Dunlap says he’s concerned that the ACLU lawsuit delegitimizes the work of the Commission before it even starts. Dunlap doubts claims made by President Trump that millions of people voted illegally in last November’s election and he thinks their findings will show that.
“If you want to dispell it, throw some facts at it,” Dunlap says.
The Commission on Election Integrity’s next meeting is scheduled for July 19th.
This story was originally published on July 10, 2017 at 6:29 p.m. ET.