President Trump’s voter fraud commission may have violated the law by ignoring federal requirements governing requests for information from states, several experts on the regulatory process told The Hill.
Experts say the failure to submit the request to states through the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) violates a 1980 law known as the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA). They also say the failure could be significant, since states could argue it means they are under no obligation to respond.
“If the commission gets heavy-handed with them, it seems to me that the states are within their right to say, ‘No, we don’t have to respond because you didn’t go through [OIRA],’” said Susan Dudley, a former OIRA administrator who is now director of the GW Regulatory Studies Center at George Washington University.
The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity asked all 50 states and the District of Columbia for extensive information last week on their voters, including full names and addresses, political party registration and the last four digits of Social Security numbers.
The request is part of work the panel is doing to promote fair and honest federal elections. It was formed after Trump said he only lost the popular vote in last year’s presidential election to Hillary Clinton because of widespread voter fraud, an argument rejected by state election officials from both parties.
A number of states have reacted to the requests with anger, arguing they represent a severe overreach by the federal government. Forty-four states led by Republican and Democratic governments, as well as the District of Columbia, are already resisting turning over information, according to multiple news outlets.
After an initial version of this story was published online, the White House in an email argued that the election commission is exempt from the requirements of the Paperwork Reduction Act, which requires federal agencies to take specific steps before making requests for public information. The reason is simple, according to a spokesman: The commission is not an agency.
“The Paperwork Reduction Act only applies to information collections by agencies,” Marc Lotter, spokesman for Vice President Pence, said in an email. “The Commission is an entity that ‘serve[s] solely to advise and assist the President,’ and is not, therefore, an agency subject to PRA.”
Experts interviewed by The Hill said they believed that the commission did fall under the Paperwork Reduction Act, a 1980 law that requires federal agencies to seek public input, including through a comment period, before making a request for information. A 1995 amendment extended OIRA’s authority to include not only requests for information for the government, but also requests for information to the public.