Topeka The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit in Washington Monday, accusing a presidential commission co-led by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach of holding at least one illegal, secret meeting.
The lawsuit alleges that the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity violated federal law at least once, on June 28, when it conducted its first meeting via a telephone conference call with Vice President Mike Pence, who chairs the commission, without giving public notice of that meeting.
The lawsuit cites an official statement on the White House website describing the meeting.
It also argues that the commission is subject to a federal law known as the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which the ACLU says requires commission meetings to be open to the public, with timely notice given to allow for people to attend in person.
“The commission held its first meeting without notice or making it open to the public,” Theresa Lee, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said in a news release announcing the suit. "This process is cloaked in secrecy, raising serious concerns about its credibility and intent. What are they trying to hide?"
President Donald J. Trump formed the commission in May to investigate his own allegations that as many as 3 million non-U.S. citizens may have voted in the 2016 election.
Without providing any valid evidence to support that claim, Trump has argued that those illegal votes alone could explain why he lost the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton but still won the electoral vote.
He named Pence to chair the commission, and he named Kobach as its vice chair. Kobach also has supported claims that millions of non-U.S. citizens could have voted in the election and that most, if not all, of those alleged votes probably would have been cast for Clinton.
Throughout the federal complaint, the ACLU refers to the panel as the "Pence-Kobach" commission and argues that Kobach is the de facto head of the commission.
The ACLU also is currently suing Kobach in U.S. District Court in Kansas over a state law he championed in 2011 that requires all new voters in Kansas to show documentary proof of U.S. citizenship in order to register to vote. Kobach was recently fined $1,000 for misleading the court in that case, a ruling that he is appealing.
Kobach's office did not respond to a request for comment about Monday's lawsuit.