Dunlap sued panel over what he claimed was an improper withholding of information about its activities
A federal judge issued an opinion saying the panel should provide him with the documents he requested
A judge has ruled in favor of a member of President Donald Trump’s voting commission who sued the panel, handing a preliminary victory to a critic who accused the panel of hiding its activities from view.
Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, a Democratic member of the panel tasked with investigating voter fraud, sued the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity last month in US District Court.
Dunlap argued that the panel should be subject to the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which requires commissions to be “fairly balanced in terms of the points of view represented” and that all materials from the commission are made available to its members.
Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly issued an opinion Friday night siding largely with Dunlap and saying the panel should provide him with the documents he requested.
In a statement hailing the decision, Dunlap said it was a “vindication” of what he had fought for.
“This decision sets the commission on a path of redemption,” Dunlap said. “My hope is that I and the other commissioners will finally be able to participate fully.”
The commission is led by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. It has come under sustained criticism since its inception, as has Trump for claiming without evidence that widespread voter fraud occurred in last year’s presidential election and cost him the popular vote.
Dunlap argued in a Washington Post op-ed last month that the “commission is cloaking itself in secrecy” and doing so in violation of federal law.
He told the court that as a member of the commission, he had not had equal access to documents from the commission and requested a court order granting him access.
The judge on Friday provided Dunlap with a preliminary order backing his request for documents on the commission’s activities.
In her opinion, Kollar-Kotelly wrote that to defend its decision not to provide Dunlap with the documents he requested, the panel had “erected and attacked a straw man, and offered in its place an outdated and indefensible view.”
Messages left with Kobach’s office and the White House were not immediately returned Sunday afternoon.
Over the summer, Kobach requested that each state provide the commission with information on voters. The judge’s opinion said Dunlap should have received information ahead of Kobach’s request.
At the commission’s last meeting in New Hampshire, Kobach faced heat from state officials for statements he made about New Hampshire election practices. Dunlap also should have received information ahead of that meeting, the judge said.
The opinion also said the court would not monitor every document the commission provided to Dunlap, but said it “expects” the commission to comply.
CNN’s Tal Kopan contributed to this report.