- The Washington Times - Monday, August 28, 2017

President Trump’s voter integrity panel said Monday that it is trying to comply with open records laws, and apologized to a federal judge if it has fallen short so far.

But the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity said the court shouldn’t allow opponents of Mr. Trump to engage in a fishing expedition on the panel’s operations, saying it would only hinder the commissioners’ important work.

In particular, the commission’s lawyers said there’s no reason to force Vice Chairman Kris Kobach to sit for a deposition, saying there’s no precedent to impose that kind of legal discovery on the panel.

“This discovery is over broad and irrelevant, particularly at this time,” the government’s lawyers said.

Opponents of the commission have filed a myriad of lawsuits trying to derail its work, though they’ve met with little success so far.

Attempts to head off collection of states’ voting information were rejected, as were demands for more transparency ahead of the commission’s July meeting. But after that meeting, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law said some documents that should have been public were instead kept secret.

It’s become a test of arcane law, with the government arguing the documents didn’t have to be shared ahead of time because they were prepared for a single commissioner, not for the whole panel.

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly called that explanation “incredible,” and suggested it contradicted what the commission had promised her earlier.

The commission offered an apology of sorts to the judge: “If the Commission staff erred, they did so because of a good-faith error in their legal interpretation; and defendants sincerely apologize to the Court and to the plaintiff for the confusion over document disclosures with respect to the July 19 meeting. There was not then, and there is not now, any intent to deceive or mislead the Court or the plaintiff.”

The commission said that if it got its obligations wrong, the answer is not to punish the panel with a wide-ranging inquiry, but rather to make sure the rules are clear for the future.

With another meeting looming Sept. 12, all sides are rushing to figure the situation out.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer last week said he’ll fight to shut down the commission, saying its work is tainted by Mr. Trump’s response to the race-tinged violence in Charlottesville earlier this month.

Mr. Schumer said white supremacists want to repress minority rights, and he said the commission could play into their hands by setting up a road map for ousting illegal or infrequent voters from the rolls.

Mr. Kobach called those accusations baseless, saying Mr. Schumer misunderstood the commission’s goals.

The panel has no regulatory authority. Mr. Trump charged the commission to report back to him on the extent of fraud in elections, and also on barriers that may prevent legitimate voters from casting ballots.

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