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Rights groups fear suppression as Trump creates panel to study voter fraud

Reuters

President Donald Trump created a commission on Thursday to investigate voter fraud and suppression, the White House said, a move that follows Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of massive voter fraud in the 2016 U.S. election.

Trump signed an executive order creating the bipartisan Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which would be chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters.

The move provoked anger among the top civil rights groups in the country who called it a voter suppression tactic.

Trump, who took office in January, has said there was widespread voter fraud in the November election. The Republican won the White House through victory in the Electoral College, which tallies wins in states, but lost the popular vote to Democratic rival Hillary Clinton by some 3 million ballots.

Trump said in January he would seek an investigation into voter fraud in the election, even though the consensus among state officials and election experts is that it is rare in the United States.

Dale Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union voting project, said, “Signing a piece of paper will not make Trump’s false statements about voter fraud true.”

Some Republicans and Democrats say Trump’s unsubstantiated claims could undermine voting rights efforts and confidence in the new president.

The bipartisan commission would not be limited to investigating Trump’s election fraud claims but look at issues that have been raised over many years.

“The commission will review policies and practices that enhance or undermine the American people’s confidence in the integrity of federal elections, and provide the president with a report that identifies system vulnerabilities,” Huckabee Sanders said. She said the report would be complete by 2018.

Democrats have long accused Republicans of trying to suppress turnout among minority and low-income voters, sometimes by erecting barriers like requiring identity cards for voting and sometimes by intimidation.

The new panel coincides with several U.S. investigations into alleged Russian meddling in the November election, including selectively leaking hacked emails and circulating false news reports. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Moscow sought to tilt the election in Trump’s favor. Russian officials have denied such interference.

Trump has publicly expressed frustration with FBI and congressional probes into the matter. He sparked a political firestorm on Tuesday when he fired the FBI director, James Comey.