A federal judge has for the second time ordered the Trump administration to turn over documents to Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap related to his participation on a presidential commission on voting integrity.

Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, right, says he mainly wants to review voter fraud panel documents to see “what was the model … going forward?”

The order, issued Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in Washington, D.C., rejects the commission’s contention that Dunlap is no longer entitled to any documents now that the commission is dissolved.

Kollar-Kotelly previously ruled in December in favor of Dunlap, who sued the commission he was asked to serve on after being excluded from information, including state voting data. However, the commission never complied with that ruling and it was dissolved less than a month later, leaving Dunlap’s request for information in limbo.

Wednesday’s ruling gave the administration until July 18 to release the documents to Dunlap.

“I suspect there will be some stuff that a few folks will be embarrassed to have out in public – I don’t care about that, that’s middle school,” Dunlap said in an interview Wednesday. “I want to know, what was the plan? What was the model they proposed going forward?”

A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice, which represented the administration in the suit, declined to comment.

Trump created the commission in early 2017 to probe his unproven claims that millions of illegal voters had cost him the popular vote in 2016. He picked Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a longtime advocate of stricter voting laws, to lead it.

Pence and Kobach made clear that the commission would focus almost entirely on voter fraud, a problem that numerous studies and probes by administrations of both parties have shown is extremely rare.

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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 that 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 more than a billion votes being cast.

Dunlap has said he joined the commission with an open mind and would act as a whistle-blower if it engaged in partisan shenanigans. The 11-member group twice met publicly and then dissolved amid growing problems. One member, former Arkansas state lawmaker David Dunn, died last fall, and a staff member to the commission was arrested on charges of possessing child pornography.

But Dunlap may have been the biggest contributor to the commission dissolution. He said it’s possible the people responsible for picking members of the committee underestimated him.

“I think I’ve worked hard at this job to be nonpartisan and not go looking for trouble,” he said. “So I think they thought, ‘He’s from Maine, he’s probably not very smart, he’s not a lawyer, we don’t have to worry about him.’ ”

On Jan. 3, the day President Trump dissolved the commission, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “Despite substantial evidence of voter fraud, many states have refused to provide the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity with basic information relevant to its inquiry. Rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense, today President Trump signed an executive order to dissolve the commission, and he has asked the Department of Homeland Security to review its initial findings and determine next courses of action.”

A week later, the administration said in a court filing that it would destroy voter registration data, rather than turn it over to Dunlap. It’s not clear whether that happened.

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

The Trump administration can appeal Wednesday’s decision, but Judge Kollar-Kotelly wrote that any appeal would not entitle defendants to a stay of her decision. In other words, an appeal would not further delay release of the requested information.

Dunlap, who has been Maine’s secretary of state since 2013 and also served from 2005-2011 under former Gov. John Baldacci, said he never really wanted to sue, but felt confident that the law was on his side.

“Maybe there is nothing in these documents, but if nothing else, it sends a bright signal that if you’re going to do this kind of work, you’d better do it in public,” he said.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: PPHEricRussell

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