President Trump’s voter fraud commission must provide Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap with information, working documents and correspondence about its work, a federal judge ruled Friday evening.

Dunlap, one of four Democrats serving on the 11-member commission, asked the court Nov. 16 to issue an injunction to receive past and future records after formal requests for them had been ignored. Dunlap said the records were necessary to allow him “to fully participate on an equal basis as all other commissioners.” The injunction grew out of a lawsuit Dunlap filed Nov. 9 against the commission in regards to the issue.

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the voter fraud commission – which is chaired by Vice President Mike Pence – to turn the documents over, both now and in the future. Dunlap “has a right, as a commissioner, to ‘fully participate’ in the proceedings of the Commission,” the judge wrote. In “the absence of being provided with past and future documents of the kinds described (in the lawsuit), Plaintiff’s right to fully participate in the commission would be irreparably harmed.”

Dunlap previously said he had not been privy to any discussions related to meeting materials, witness invitations, goals or outreach. He and at least one other Democrat on the commission, New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner, both have said they have not received any substantive communications from the body since its last meeting, Sept. 12.

In a written statement issued late Friday night, Dunlap said he knew he was on the right side of the law, but that “unfortunately, through legal arguments and bombastic public statements, the commission’s leadership denigrated straightforward efforts to fulfill my responsibilities as a member of the commission.”

“This decision sets the commission on a path of redemption, and my hope is that I and the other commissioners will finally be able to participate fully,” Dunlap added.

The commission’s chief of staff, Andrew Kossack, did not respond to a request for comment. Previously, Kris Kobach – who serves as secretary of state in Kansas and vice chairman of the commission – called Dunlap’s complaints “baseless and paranoid.”

The judge also rejected the commission’s offer to allow Dunlap to “review the requested documents without receiving copies or taking notes,” calling it “not a reasonable offer.”

Trump created the commission in February to probe his unproven claims that millions of illegal voters had cost him the popular vote in 2016. At its two meetings to date, Pence and Kobach have made it clear that it will focus almost entirely on voter fraud, a problem that numerous studies and probes by administrations of both parties have shown is extremely rare. And the group will not address the systematic intrusion into state election infrastructure by Russia, a problem about which Sen. Angus King of Maine, an independent, has been especially vocal.

A 2011 voter fraud investigation in Maine by Republican Secretary of State Charlie Summers found just one instance of fraud. Nationally, numerous voter fraud investigations have concluded the problem is vanishingly small, with one study by Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt finding just 31 credible allegations of identity fraud in all primary, general, special and municipal elections between 2000 and 2014, despite over a billion votes being cast.

Dunlap has said he joined the commission with an open mind and will act as a whistle-blower if it engages in partisan shenanigans. But he has become much more critical of the body’s approach over the past month, saying many of his colleagues appear to define “voter fraud” to include legitimate voting by people they don’t want to see cast ballots, such as college students.

Dunlap has been represented on a pro bono basis by American Oversight, a nonpartisan ethics watchdog group, and the New York law firm of Patterson Belknap.

Colin Woodard can be contacted at 791-6317 or at:

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