WATCH | President Trump has claimed that millions of illegal votes cost him the popular vote in the 2016 election. He hasn't shown any proof of those claims, but he plans to get to the bottom of the voter fraud question with a new commission aimed at investigating the issue.
On Thursday, Trump signed an executive order creating the "Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity."
The bipartisan commission will evaluate "vulnerabilities" in the U.S. voting system and create a report with recommendations for improvement, including policy changes.
Vice President Mike Pence will lead the commission along with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
Bill Gardner, Democratic Secretary of State of New Hampshire, Matthew Dunlap, Democratic Secretary of State of Maine, Ken Blackwell, former Republican Secretary of State of Ohio, Connie Lawson, Republican Secretary of State of Indiana, and Christy McCormick, an Obama-appointed Republican Commissioner of the Election Assistance Commission, will also join the new election integrity panel.
The panel will conduct its review over one year.
Finding the facts
Kobach told Circa that the commission's main focus is to create a nationwide database of cases of voter fraud and "provide some hard facts."
"This commission will do what’s never been done, take a national look at the problem, collect data and go where the facts lead us," he said.
He said states have already been studying cases of voter fraud, but there's no national database for them to share the information.
Does voter fraud exist?
Yes. But is it widespread enough to have an impact on elections? That's debatable.
Dozens of news reports in recent years have documents cases of alleged voter fraud. From reports of people voting twice in different states, voter impersonation, non-U.S. citizens voting illegally, and there have even been cases of dead people casting votes in some states.
But experts say these cases are rare and the number of fraudulent votes is so small that it isn't an issue.
"It’s a total joke if you want to be honest about it," Diallo Brooks, a spokesman for People for the American Way said of the new commission.
"And if you look at all the studies that have happened over the years about in-person voter fraud the numbers are negligible," he said.
The Brennan Center for Justice conducted a nationwide study of voter fraud in 2007 and concluded: "It is more likely that an individual will be struck by lightning than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls."
In the specific cases examined, the Brennan Center study found voter fraud rates ranging between 0.0003% and 0.0025% of votes cast.
In 2014, the Government Accountability Office reviewed voter fraud studies and found they identified "few instances of in-person voter fraud."
Brooks said the new commission is part of a GOP agenda to win more elections by creating more Voter ID laws to keep minority groups from going to the polls.
"This is just another waste of time, another deflection, another push to create law in states around the country to undermine people’s ability to turn out and vote," he said.
Others have said the commission is meant to be a distraction from the ongoing drama over the White House/Russia investigation.
Rep. Elijah Cummings called the order and its timing "a weak and transparent effort to distract from the President's firing of FBI Director Comey just as he was accelerating his investigation into the President's campaign and its ties to Russia, as well as the storm of controversy that is now enveloping the White House as a result," NBC news reported.
"In the eye of the beholder"
Kobach said seriousness of these voter fraud allegations are "in the eye of the beholder."
"A person might look at a number and say, well there’s 300 cases of voter fraud in a state of 2 million people over a ten-year period, some would say 300 is a lot of cases some would say its rare," he said.
The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking information that the Trump administration is using as the basis for its voter fraud claims.
"It is telling that the president’s choice to co-lead the commission is none other than Kris Kobach, one of the worst offenders of voter suppression in the nation today," Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project said in a statement.
" If the Trump administration really cares about election integrity, it will divulge its supposed evidence before embarking on this commission boondoggle,” Ho added.