President Trump is taking the next step in his effort to crack down on possible voter fraud in the 2016 election. Veuer’s Nick Cardona (@nickcardona93) has that story.
WASHINGTON — State election officials around the country pushed back Friday against a request by President Trump’s voter fraud commission for states to hand over detailed information about their voters, including birth dates, parts of Social Security numbers and voting histories.
Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, a Republican, said the state would require the commission to file a formal request and will not release personal information about voters.
The office of Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler, a Republican, said lawyers are reviewing the letter to determine how the state will respond.
“Our priority, as we’ve demonstrated in the past, will always be to protect voter’s protected, personal information,” said Meg Casper Sunstrom, a spokeswoman for Schedler, former head of the National Association of Secretaries of State. “This includes Social Security numbers, mother’s maiden name and date of birth … Voter lists are publicly available, but only include limited information including voter history. Voter history is not how a voter cast their ballot, it’s whether they participated.”
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted said Friday that his state will not provide the commission with the last four digits of Ohioans’ Social Security numbers or their state driver’s license IDs.
Husted, a Republican who is running for governor, said fraud is rare, and “We do not want any federal intervention in our state’s right and responsibility to conduct elections.”
Michael Haas, administrator of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, said that under state law, “most of the information in Wisconsin’s voter registration system is public and is available for purchase, and is commonly purchased by political parties, candidates, researchers and other organizations.” Haas pointed out that the fee is $12,500 for the statewide file, and “Wisconsin law does not contain any provision for waiving the fee for voter data.”
Connecticut Secretary of Denise Merrill, a Democrat, said Thursday that “in the spirit of transparency” the state will only provide publicly available information about voters, but not any information that is protected.
“In the same spirit of transparency, we will request that the commission share any memos, meeting minutes or additional information as state officials have not been told precisely what the commission is looking for,” she said in a statement.
Trump set up the commission in May to study his allegations of widespread voter fraud in last year’s presidential election. The 15-member bipartisan Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity is set to hold its first meeting July 19.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the commission’s vice chairman, sent a letter to election officials in 50 states and the District of Columbia on Wednesday requesting data, including voter information. Kobach has a long history of promoting allegations of voter fraud and pushing for tighter restrictions on voting.
In the letter dated June 28, Kobach asked state officials for publicly available voter roll data, including names, addresses, dates of birth, political party, the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers, voter history and other information.
He also asked officials for their recommendations to improve the integrity of federal elections and prevent voter intimidation and disenfranchisement.
Kobach also requested information officials had on voter fraud or registration fraud in their states and convictions of election-related crimes since the 2000 federal election. He asked for the information by July 14.
Vice President Pence, the chairman of the commission, hosted a call Wednesday with members.
“The integrity of the vote is a foundation of our democracy,’’ said Pence, according to a White House statement. “This bipartisan commission will review ways to strengthen that integrity in order to protect and preserve the principle of one person, one vote.”
Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala., called the commission a “sham” and criticized Kobach for asking states for the sensitive information.
“The commission’s request for personal voter data should be alarming for any American who values their privacy, security or the integrity of our elections,’’ she said in a statement Friday. “Handing over information on our voters to an administration that has no respect for the facts will only lay a foundation for national voter suppression efforts.”
Trump, who lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly 2.9 million votes, has claimed that last year’s election included up to 3 million to 5 million fraudulent voters. Voting rights groups say there is no evidence to support that claim.
Sewell is vice chairwoman of a group set up in May by the Democratic National Committee to counter and “discredit” the work of Trump’s commission.
Civil rights and voting rights advocates also blasted the letter sent to states.
“This attempt to pull together data on a vast scale is an invitation for mischief,” Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said Friday. “It’s unclear what the commission intends to do with this massive amount of data.”
Myrna Pérez, deputy director of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, said states have to be careful about what they share.
“Voters trust that states will safeguard their information when they register to vote, and to break that bond could damage voters’ confidence and their rights,” she said in a statement.
Clarke said her group has expanded its national hotline for voters to report election concerns to five days in part because of Trump’s commission. In the past, the hotline was mostly available during federal elections.
“At the end of the day, our hope is that states will not cooperate with the commission’s request,” she said. “Any disclosure of data legitimizes the work of this commission.”
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