The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity had its first official meeting last week, launching its agenda amid widespread controversy about Vice Chair Kris Kobach’s request for all 50 states’ individual voter data, and while facing seven federal lawsuits related to that request.
Although the stated mission of the group, as outlined in President Trump’s May executive order, is to “study the registration and voting processes used in federal elections,” the public outcry against the commission has come from fear that it would use overblown charges of voter fraud to encourage or even create widespread voter-suppression programs. The first meeting went roughly the way detractors expected it would: Voter fraud was the center of discussion among the most prominent attendees, though several state elections officials there expressed concern about less sensational issues, like voting equipment and automatic registration. (There is no proof of widespread in-person voter fraud or noncitizen voting.)
Among those state officials was Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, one of three Democrats in a 12-member body that otherwise includes a brain trust of conservative voter-fraud crusaders. I spoke to Dunlap, who in the past has said that Trump’s claims of rampant fraud are a ploy to “make it harder for people to vote,” about his reasons for joining the commission and about what he suspects will be the group’s true agenda moving forward. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.