Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Files Lawsuit To Halt Commission Hearing for Failure to Comply With Federal Law
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JULY 10, 2017
Lawsuit Also Demands Release of Information About the Commission Under Key Government Transparency Law
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee) on Monday filed a lawsuit against the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity for its failure to operate in a transparent manner under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA).
The suit comes after the Commission failed to respond to a Lawyers’ Committee request sent one week ago for documents regarding the Commission’s upcoming July 19th meeting—a meeting that will not be open to the public. In its suit, the Lawyers’ Committee alleges the Commission’s failure to disclose communications and make its meetings open to the public violates FACA.
“We filed today’s lawsuit because the so-called Election Integrity Commission has been operating covertly and its actions, to date, have been shrouded in secrecy,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Through the Federal Advisory Committee Act, we are using an important statutory tool to expose and curb the illegitimacy of this Commission and to bar the commencement of any meetings before they make materials available for our inspection. In our view, the Commission must not conduct any meetings before complying with our request. We will continue to fight to expose all of the Commission’s illegitimate actions.”
Monday’s lawsuit, filed with co-counsel Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP in the United States District Court for District of Columbia,addresses the Commission’s lack of transparency on several fronts. It notes that the Commission’s upcoming July 19th meeting will not be open to the public, and exposes the Commission’s lack of oversight and accountability given that its unprecedented request for personal voter data was not accurately directed at statewide officials nor was it in compliance with many state privacy laws. The lawsuit additionally notes that the Commission failed to provide public notice or disclose details regarding its June 28th telephone conference meeting, during which the commission, led by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, approved a plan to request an unprecedented amount of voter data from statewide election officials.
The suit seeks a temporary restraining order mandating the production of records before the July 19thmeeting, blocking the July 19th meeting until the Commission fulfills its obligations to disclose its documents, and ordering that all commission meetings be open to the public.
“Federal law demands that the President’s Commissions operate in an open and transparent manner. That principle is of paramount importance when, as here, the Commission seeks to impact the fundamental right to vote. We are proud to stand with the Lawyers’ Committee in this fight,” said Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer partner John A. Freedman.
On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a corresponding FACA lawsuit in the D.C. District Court.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law has undertaken a series of comprehensive actions to challenge the Pence-Kobach Commission. This includes: the launch of a hotline for the public to report instances of voter suppression (866-OUR-VOTE); letters sent to Secretaries of State demanding they not comply with Mr. Kobach’s request for voter roll data; filing a Hatch Act complaint against Mr. Kobach regarding his repeated exploitation of his Commission role to solicit campaign contributions and promote his candidacy for Governor of Kansas; requesting documents regarding the Commission made pursuant to the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA); and urging Secretaries of State to adopt a bipartisan resolution condemning the so-called Election Integrity Commission.
To read the complaint filed Monday, click here.
About the Lawyers’ Committee:
The Lawyers’ Committee, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. Now in its 54th year, the Lawyers’ Committee is continuing its quest “Move America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and voting rights.