A growing number of U. S. states are refusing to comply with President Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity request for voter registration data.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, vice chairman of the commission, sent the letter as part of the commission’s efforts to investigate the possibility of voter fraud in various schemes, as per the presidential executive order that created the group in May.
As noted in a PBS reported, “Trump has claimed without evidence since winning November’s election that it was ‘rigged,’ either by voter impersonation or illegal ballots cast by undocumented immigrants. Trump swept the Electoral College in November’s election, but was nearly 3 million votes shy of Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the popular vote.”
Kobach has emphasized, however, that his commission’s goal is in no way to validate or specifically nurture the president’s claims.
Trump Signs Executive Order on May 11, 2017, launching Panel to Investigate Voter Fraud/Photo Credit: Pat Dollard
The requested information includes registered voters’ full names, addresses, birth dates, political parties, a list of the elections they’ve voted in since 2006, whether they’ve registered to vote in other states, their military status, info on any felony convictions, whether they’ve lived overseas, and the last four digits of their social security numbers.
Kobach stated twice in the letter that only “public” information was being requested, and reiterated Friday, “Every state receives the same letter, but we’re not asking for it if it’s not publicly available,” according to a CNN report.
The States that refuse to comply with the Trump election committee request voiced concerns and opposition to providing the information. Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D-KY) said that she does not intend to release the data.
“The president created his election commission based on the false notion that ‘voter fraud’ is a widespread issue it is not,” Lundergan Grimes said. “I do not intend to release Kentuckians’ sensitive personal data to the federal government.”
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, (R-MS), didn’t mince his words, emphatically stating he won’t turn over any information to the panel, telling members of the voter fraud commission to, “go jump in the Gulf of Mexico.”
Gov. Tom Wolf, (D-PA), was quick to point out Trump has alleged that millions of illegal votes cost him the popular vote in November’s election, an assertion for which Trump has offered no evidence. Trump’s claims of voter fraud based on numerous state and academic studies point to a minimal number of improper votes cast in recent elections.
Chief election officials from both Republican and Democrats have expressed concern and skepticism about Trump’s claim of widespread voter fraud.
“In Ohio, we pride ourselves on being a state where it is easy to vote and hard to cheat,” said Secretary of State Jon Husted, (R-OH). “Voter fraud happens, it’s rare, and when it happens, we hold people accountable. I believe that as the Commission does its work, it will find the same about our state.”
Secretary of State, Alex Padilla (D-CA), voiced similar concerns about the letter and voter fraud in his state.
“California’s participation would only serve to legitimize the false and already debunked claims of massive voter fraud,”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) and Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-VA) said their states would not provide confidential information.
“New York refuses to perpetuate the myth voter fraud played a role in our election,” Cuomo said in a statement. “We will not be complying with this request.”
Amid the pushback from the forty-plus states, a member of the Kobach commission did not hesitate to say her state would also not comply. Secretary of State Connie Lawson (R-IN), President of the National Association of Secretaries of State, announced in a statement that her state would not release certain information requested by Kobach.
“Indiana law doesn’t permit the Secretary of State to provide the personal information requested by Secretary Kobach,” Lawson said. “Under Indiana public records laws, certain voter info is available to the public, the media and any other person who requested the information for non-commercial purposes. The information publicly available is the name, address, and congressional district assignment.”
Officials in Texas, Colorado, and Wisconsin said their states would release public information, but noted certain data, including Social Security number and full dates of birth, were confidential and would not be released.
North Dakota’s director of elections, John Arnold, said that state law would not allow the presidential commission access to voter information.
“Wisconsin statutes do not permit the state to release a voter’s date of birth, driver license number or Social Security number,” according to Michael Haas, the administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission.
Secretary of state Dennis Richardson (R-OR) said charges for voter information such as names, addresses, and voting history would be at the expense of the commission and they are welcome to pay.
Kobach is secretary of state, will not share voters’ Social Security information with the commission making the following statement.
“In Kansas, the Social Security number is not publicly available,” Kobach told the Kansas City Star. “Every state receives the same letter, but we’re not asking for it if it’s not publicly available.”
Officials in Washington, Utah, Rhode Island, Minnesota, and Connecticut, also expressed skepticism stating their states would withhold nonpublic information. North Carolina will provide all but the last four digits of Social Security numbers, dates of birth and driver’s license numbers.
Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea (D-RI) highly critical of the commission’s request, said Kobach was unfit to lead the voter fraud panel, given his record of strict voting laws and a recent court fine for failing to produce documents related to a lawsuit over voting laws.
“It is deeply troubling that he has been given oversight of this commission by the president,” Gorbea said.
Officials have raised questions about the commission’s discretion obtaining the confidential documents.
“State statutes permit the [Wisconsin commission] to share confidential information in limited circumstances with law enforcement agencies or agencies of other states,” Haas said. “The presidential commission does not appear to qualify under either of these categories.”
Kobach is an advocate of strict voter identification laws, which he says is necessary to combat fraud. Opponents say those laws hinder access to the polls primarily for elderly and minority voters.