States push back against releasing voter data to fraud commission
(WASHINGTON) -- At least 17 states are balking at the Trump administration’s request for voter registration data as part of the new "election integrity" commission, with six states outright declaring they will not provide the information.
Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia have firmly stated that they will not adhere to the commission's request.
"I will not hand over Minnesota voters’ sensitive personal information to the commission," Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said, adding that he has "serious doubts about the commission’s credibility and trustworthiness."
New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said in a statement, "I will never release the personally identifiable information of New Mexico voters protected by law, including their Social Security number and birthdate."
The letter, which was made public by Connecticut's secretary of state, requests “the full first and last names of all registrants, middle names or initials if available, addresses, dates of birth, political party (if recorded in your state), last four digits of Social Security number if available.”
The information would improve the analysis of the "vulnerabilities and issues related to voter registration and voting” nationally, the letter said.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said in a tweet that his state "will not participate in this systematic effort to suppress the vote."
The letter was sent by commission chair Kris Kobach, who serves as Kansas' secretary of state. In an interview Thursday with the Kansas City Star, Kobach said Kansas would provide all the information requested in the letter. On Friday, however, Kobach told the Star that Kansas would not be supplying Social Security numbers.
“In Kansas, the Social Security number is not publicly available," he said. "Every state receives the same letter, but we’re not asking for it if it’s not publicly available.”
Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes went as far as to call the commission “an attempt to legitimize voter suppression efforts across the country.”
The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity was established by Executive Order 13799 and signed by President Donald Trump on May 11. The order states that the purpose of the commission is to create a study on current federal voting procedures and cases of fraudulent voter registration and voting.
Trump established the commission months after claiming that millions of voters cast their ballots illegally in the 2016 presidential election.
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla called the commission “a waste of taxpayer money and a distraction from the real threats to the integrity of our elections today: aging voting systems and documented Russian interference in our elections."
"The president's appointment of Kobach -- who has a long history of sponsoring discriminatory, anti-immigrant policies, including voter suppression and racial profiling laws -- sends a clear and ominous message. His role as vice chair is proof that the ultimate goal of the commission is to enact policies that will result in the disenfranchisement of American citizens," Padilla said.
Kay Stimson, a spokesperson for the National Association of Secretaries of State, which represents election officials in 40 states, told ABC News: “We want to know how they are using the information they are collecting. We have asked the White House, and we have not gotten a response yet.”
In May, the Supreme Court struck down an effort to reinstate a North Carolina law that would increase ID requirements to vote and was seen as an effort to fight voter fraud. In 2016, the Fourth Circuit Court said these requirements “were enacted with racially discriminatory intent.”
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