WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump announced late Wednesday he is ending the voter fraud commission he launched last year as the panel faces a flurry of lawsuits and criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike.
"Rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense, today I signed an executive order to dissolve the commission," Trump said.
The voter fraud commission, launched by executive order in May with the stated goal of restoring confidence and integrity in the electoral process, has faced a barrage of lawsuits in recent months over privacy concerns, as the commission sought personal data on voters across the country.
Trump has alleged — without evidence — that between 3 million and 5 million illegal votes were cast in the 2016 presidential election in which his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, garnered nearly 3 million more overall votes, though Trump gained a majority in the Electoral College.
Most analysts have said there has been little or no evidence of voter fraud in U.S. elections.
The president tapped Vice President Mike Pence to serve as chairman, with the job of vice chairman going to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican who helped create some of the controversial voter identification laws that critics say disproportionately affect minorities. Of the 13 original members, eight are Republicans and five Democrats.
The commission had convened twice — in Washington, D.C., in July and New Hampshire last month — and heard testimony about how to better improve the voting process and registration.
Last month, Maine's secretary of state, Matthew Dunlap, a Democrat on the panel, filed suit against the commission alleging he was denied full access to the internal information he needed to fully participate in the commission's work. A federal judge ruled in his favor.
The commission also has faced a flurry of lawsuits over privacy concerns as the panel requested voter names, addresses and other data in all 50 states — though officials in 15 states reportedly have denied the requests.
The nonpartisan U.S. Government Accountability Office announced in the fall it had accepted a request from Democratic lawmakers to review the commission.
In an Oct. 18 letter requesting the investigation, Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota wrote that the manner in which the commission is conducting its work "will prevent the public from a full and transparent understanding of the commission's conclusions and unnecessarily diminish confidence in our democratic process."
A review by the agency was expected to be completed in the months ahead.