President Trump’s voter fraud commission may have violated the law by ignoring federal requirements governing requests for information from states, reports The Hill.
In May, Trump created the panel in an executive order to investigate his widely debunked claim that millions of illegal votes cost him the popular vote in November’s election.
President Trump on Saturday blasted the dozens of states refusing to comply with a broad request from his voter fraud commission to hand over voter roll data to the White House, asking “What are they trying to hide?”
“Numerous states are refusing to give information to the very distinguished VOTER FRAUD PANEL. What are they trying to hide?” Trump tweeted Saturday morning.
The information requested by the commission’s letter to all 50 states directs them to turn over “publicly-available voter roll data including, if publicly available under the laws of your state, the full first and last names of all registrants, middle names or initials if available, addresses, dates of birth, political party (if recorded in your state), last four digits of social security number if available, [and] voter history from 2006 onward.”
Some state officials have called the panel’s request inappropriate and said participating in the attempt to compile voter data would legitimize or perpetuate false claims of massive voter fraud.
The Hill reports:
Under the Paperwork Reduction Act, information requests from agencies and other federal entities are supposed to first be submitted to the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA).
This 1980 law requires federal agencies to seek public input, including through a comment period, before a request for information. A 1995 amendment extended OIRA’s authority to include not only requests for information for the government, but requests for information to the public.
The law also requires that agencies justify their requests for public information, specify how it will be used and provide assurances that data will be protected. The law also obliges the agencies to estimate how many hours it will take entities to respond.
It does not appear that the commission submitted its request to OIRA before it sent its request letter to the 50 states asking for voter information.
“If the commission gets heavy handed with them it seems to me that the states are within their right to say no we don’t have to respond because you didn’t go through [OIRA],” said Susan Dudley, a former OIRA administrator who is now director of the Regulatory Studies Center at George Washington University.
The Hill adds:
Stuart Shapiro, a professor at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, told The Hill that a review can take anywhere from 6 to 9 months to complete — a timeframe that can be grating to agencies.
Trump only ordered that the commission be formed in May. Its first meeting is scheduled for July 19. According to a notice in the Federal Register, the meeting “will consist of a ceremonial swearing in of Commission members, introductions and statements from members, a discussion of the Commission’s charge and objectives, possible comments or presentations from invited experts, and a discussion of next steps and related matters.”
Shapiro raised the possibility that the commission violated the Paperwork Reduction Act in a blog post for The Regulatory Review on Wednesday.
In his post, Shapiro noted that the commission’s letter did not include any indication that its request for information had been submitted for review through the Paperwork Reduction Act process.
“I think it shows a carelessness in their desire to come in and shake things up and do what they want and to do so with a disregard for the rules,” said Shapiro.
“They aren’t following the rules, and when you don’t follow the rules eventually someone points that out and you have to go back and follow them.”
United to Protect Democracy and the Brennan Center for Justice issued a letter on Monday that called on Trump budget director Mick Mulvaney to take immediate action against the commission for failing to follow the requirements of the Paperwork Reduction Act.
“The PRA reflects a longstanding recognition that when agencies collect information from the public, they must do it in a way that balances legitimate governmental need with the burdens such collections may impose,” the groups said. “To ensure that balance, the statute requires agencies to engage with the public before embarking on such collections. The Advisory Commission has plainly violated those requirements.”