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The Journal Gazette

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Friday, January 05, 2018 1:00 am

State GOP mum on voter fraud

Dem chairman celebrates end of Trump panel

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

In October, Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson told news media in Washington, D.C., that “right now, there's nothing going on” with the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, of which she was a member.

That remains the case now that President Donald Trump has dissolved the 11-member panel.

Lawson, a Republican, declined to comment Thursday on the commission or Trump's decision, which was announced Wednesday evening. Her office referred questions to Vice President Mike Pence, who chaired the group.

Republican Trump created the Commission on Election Integrity last May after claiming, without offering evidence, that millions of people voted illegally for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.

Since forming, the commission – which met only twice – reportedly bogged down from partisan disagreements, lawsuits claiming it was not complying with open records laws, and the refusal by most states to turn over requested information on voters.

Lawson herself would not release to the commission Indiana voters' Social Security numbers, birth dates and election participation records. She said in June she would release only public records, including voters' names, addresses and congressional districts.

She told the Indianapolis Star last summer that since she became Indiana secretary of state in 2012, “we have had (voter) fraud take place. I would say our system prevents as much of it as any state system.”

Concerning Trump's claims of widespread voter fraud, Lawson told Howey Politics Indiana last summer, “Of the numbers I heard, 3 to 5 million fraudulent votes, we have no evidence of that here in Indiana.”

The Journal Gazette asked leaders of Indiana's Democratic and Republican parties for reaction to Trump's decision to shut down the commission. A spokesman for the Indiana Republican Party referred questions to Lawson and Pence. But Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody responded quickly.

“Good riddance,” Zody said in a statement. “That millions of people committed voter fraud was always a front to justify the committee's future actions to restrict Americans' constitutionally protected right to vote.”

Zody warned that the commission's elimination “doesn't mean (the Trump administration) won't still try to undermine the election process. We need to remain vigilant about what actions the Department of Homeland Security and others in federal government take when it comes to elections systems.”

When Trump dissolved the commission, he said in a statement that he had asked the Department of Homeland Security “to review these issues and determine next courses of action.”

bfrancisco@jg.net