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Indiana Secretary of State says no pressure from White House after election commission appointment

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson said Monday she has received no pressure from White House officials after being appointed to a new commission on election integrity.

President Donald Trump, following through on a campaign promise and unsubstantiated claims that millions of undocumented immigrants voted illegally, signed the executive order Thursday giving a broad mandate to review policies and practices involving voter fraud, suppression and registration.

“We’d love to have 100 percent of the eligible voters vote,” Lawson said in an interview with FOX 59 Monday. “But we also need to make sure people who are not eligible are not voting.”

The commission, which Vice President Mike Pence will chair and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach will serve as vice-chair, received near-instant criticism for its inception and purpose. The League of Women Voters said in a statement the real purpose is to justify the president’s false claims of widespread voter fraud in the November election.

“Well obviously it’s a shame because nobody’s seen the agenda, nobody’s seen the total membership,” Lawson said. “I don’t feel that way at all, and I’m sorry they do, but I think we’ll prove them wrong.”

Other members of the bipartisan commission include New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner, Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell and the Election Assistance Commission’s commissioner Christy McCormick.

“The experts and officials will follow the facts where they lead,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders said last week, White House deputy press secretary. “Meetings and hearings will be open to the public for comments.”

Lawson said she hasn’t spoken directly with the president or vice president about the commission’s upcoming task and has received no guidance or pressure from any other White House official.

“The people that are on this commission have proposed, advocated for legislation that makes the process of voting harder in this country,” John Zody said, chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party. "We have seen no proof that this commission should have even been created in the first place."

The White House said it would like a report with recommendations next year.

“There could be some widespread recommendations, best practices that we might see,” Lawson said. “But I can’t really answer that because I don’t know what we’ll find.”