Elections

Obama-linked group asks for temporary injunction against Trump voter commission

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, right, holds a stack of papers as he meets with then President-elect Donald Trump.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, right, holds a stack of papers as he meets with then President-elect Donald Trump. AP

A group of former Obama Administration lawyers on Wednesday moved for a temporary injunction against President Donald Trump’s voting fraud commission, saying the committee caused an "immediate blow to the proper functioning of our democracy" when it requested voter data from all 50 states without following legally mandated procedures.

The motion, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., by Protect Democracy Project and United to Protect Democracy, cited reports of people withdrawing their voter registration in response to the Trump commission’s request for information — proof, the motion argues, that the court should stop the Trump group from collecting the data now before it does more harm.

The motion also argues that the requests "may increase the vulnerability of voter registration systems to hackers" and, contrary to federal law, gives Protect Democracy insufficient time to respond and mobilize the public to its actions.

"We're going to be arguing that it's going to be vital for the court to take action right away," said Larry Schwartztol, an attorney at Protect Democracy.

The motion filed to court, first reported by McClatchy, says "the mere specter of the Commission’s data-collection has caused thousands of citizens to de-register from their states’ voter rolls — an immediate blow to the proper functioning of our democracy."

The move is the latest wrinkle in an ongoing legal battle between Schwartztol’s group and Trump’s commission, known officially as Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity Resources. In September, the group filed a lawsuit against the commission because it said the commission didn’t comply with a law called the Paperwork Reduction Act, which mandates any federal government agency follow certain procedures before requesting data.

The Trump commission, led by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, has sparked controversy since its inception earlier this year, with critics charging that it is nothing more than an attempt to make voting harder for many Democratic constituencies.

The mere specter of the Commission’s data-collection has caused thousands of citizens to de-register from their states’ voter rolls — an immediate blow to the proper functioning of our democracy.

United to Protect Democracy’s motion

The commission was formed after President Trump repeatedly charged, without evidence, that three million to five million people voted illegally during the last presidential election. (Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in 2016 by about nearly 3 million votes.) Supporters have said a national review of voting laws is necessary to ensure elections are fair.

In particular, the commission’s request of voter data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia provoked a broad backlash, with many states refusing to provide all or at least some of the information.

In July, officials in Colorado reported that more than 3,000 voters had unregistered since the Trump request for data. The motion also cites media reports from North Carolina and New Mexico, where officials said they had also heard from voters considering withdrawing their registrations.

Schwartztol said those reports show the commission is damaging American democracy right now and must be put to a stop immediately.

"We're going to be saying to the court there’s an urgency to stop whatever damage the commission is already doing, while the court makes an ultimate decision about what the outcome of the case is," he said.

Schwartztol hoped the court would hear and act on the motion for an injunction in the next several weeks.

Protect Democracy is made up of two non-profit groups, United to Protect Democracy and the Protect Democracy Project, that launched in February, created by former top lawyers in the Obama White House. It is intended to be watchdog on the Trump White House on ethical and other issues, and also advocates and lobbies lawmakers.

The Protect Democracy Project is handling the litigation in the case.

Alex Roarty: 202-383-6173, @Alex_Roarty

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