The federal lawsuit brought by Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap demanding prompt communication from and meaningful participation on the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity – which is studying nothing, in order to give advice to President Trump, who will ignore it – expends a lot of taxpayer money and judicial resources, but at least it’s deductible.

“Voter fraud” is not a real thing, but like a Pet Rock it has become a commercial success. The political issue harkens back to Jim Crow-era literacy tests and poll taxes, but the latest voter-suppression push is relatively recent. Republicans work to disenfranchise an important chunk of the Democratic voting base – minorities and young and low-income people – by making it harder for them to vote. They do this by passing laws that restrict voting registration times and polling places and require government-sponsored identification, among other means.

All over the country Republican legislators sponsor bills backed by special interest groups to restrict voting, and Democrats and other interest groups fight them. Maine’s same-day voter registration referendum was fought and defended along partisan lines. The battle is over winning elections – nothing more.

Matt Dunlap knows that voter fraud is not a real thing. A Maine panel appointed by his Republican predecessor studied it and reached that conclusion, consistent with every other reliable analysis.

President Trump does not take advice nor is he an evidence-based kind of guy. As long as something is on Twitter, gets votes or makes money, it’s real. The president gins up his base with fear mongering about voter fraud and made a splash when he chose as the commission’s vice chair a leading Republican proponent of voter-restriction laws: Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is now running for governor on a voter-restriction platform.

The Commission on Election Integrity has been widely deemed dysfunctional and a sham, thanks in part to its multiple public records requests and the shameless use of its “work” to promote Kobach’s run for governor. A commission staffer was arrested and charged with possession of child pornography, and 15 states have refused to provide information allegedly needed by the commission to fulfill its duty “to study the registration and voting process used in federal elections.” An email written by commission member Hans von Spakovsky says plainly that with Democrats or mainstream Republicans on the commission, it will be impossible to find voter fraud. He’s right.


The one official act of the commission was a letter sent to all 50 states – seeking voters’ names, addresses, dates of birth, party affiliation, the last four digits of their Social Security numbers and their voting history back to 2006 – and it has held two meetings. The commission has been marred by multiple lawsuits, document requests and controversies. On the advice of Maine Attorney General Janet Mills, who cited privacy concerns, Dunlap as secretary of state refused to comply with the commission’s request. Maine has been joined by over a dozen other states that are still refusing to comply with the commission’s information request, which is why last week’s lawsuit is peculiar.

Having not been presented with a legitimate concern about voter fraud or more data to study it, Dunlap sued 10 separate entities in federal court claiming “irreparable harm” because less than two months after requesting “information or updates” about the phony issue – from a phony commission, which is embroiled in litigation and to which Dunlap has refused to turn over information – he hasn’t received it.

How does he sleep at night without the “information or updates”? Emergency! Dunlap needs “material gathered or received by individual commission members, either as part of their own research or sent to them by third parties, but not shared with other commission members of staff,” among the many categories of materials denied him, according to his complaint.

The lawsuit will likely show that Dunlap “has received no communications regarding the substantive work of the commission” because no substantive work has been performed. The panel is too busy defending itself in lawsuits. The public is stuck with the tab for litigating which came first, the chicken or the egg.

Luckily, Dunlap is represented by, among others, American Oversight – a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, according to its website. Get a tax deduction litigating whether Secretary of State Matt Dunlap has an enforceable legal right to meaningful participation on a meaningless commission.

Cynthia Dill is a civil rights lawyer and a former state senator. She can be contacted at:

Twitter: @dillesquire

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