Voting rights advocates and some state election officials cheered President Donald Trump's announcement that he was disbanding his election fraud commission, but their celebration could be short-lived.
In a statement, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders repeated Trump's oft-made claim of voter fraud, but said that "rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense", Trump had ended the commission and asked the Department of Homeland Security to take up the review of United States election systems.
Trump created the commission in May 2017 after he continued to insist that as many as 5 million votes were cast illegally in the November 2016 presidential election where he bested Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. Past studies have found voter fraud to be exceptionally rare.
The commission's vice chairman, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, said the work done by DHS is likely to be less public.
Dale Ho, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Voting Rights Project, accused the commission of engaging in "a wild-goose chase for voter fraud, demonizing the very American voters whom we should all be helping to participate - with the not-so-secret goal of making voting harder with unnecessary barriers".
Culliton-González and other activists credit legal challenges and fierce opposition from voting rights and civil rights groups for the demise of the commission. It is quite another thing for that agency to divert its attention to the pursuit of discredited theories of widespread voter fraud, with the intent of stopping eligible voters - disproportionately minority voters - from voting.
Democratic lawmakers quickly weighed in after the committee was disbanded.
"The commission's entire goal was to legitimize voter suppression", Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and former head of the Justice Departments Civil Rights Division, told the Times. "System is rigged, must go to Voter I.D.", Trump tweeted.
Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin - who refused to hand over voter information to the commission - said DHS would have to show a legitimate reason for wanting the state's voter data.
Trump convened the commission to investigate the 2016 presidential election, after alleging repeatedly and without evidence that voting fraud cost him the popular vote.
Trump formed the commission last May to examine the US electoral system for evidence of large-scale voter fraud.
Kobach told the Topeka Capital-Journal last week that although the commission's work had been delayed because of the lawsuits, it would meet in January. U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ordered the commission in December to stop withholding documents from the panel's Democratic members.
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday that the White House would send the commission's preliminary findings to the department "and make determinations on the best way forward from that point". She also said the department is going to face similar obstacles in seeking information from the states.
The Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer of NY, said in a statement that "the commission never had anything to do with election integrity".