- Fifteen states are refusing to hand over voter data to President Donald Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.
- States attorneys general who refused balked at the commission’s original request for information including partial Social Security numbers, dates of birth, addresses and voting history.
- The commission is tasked with investigating voter fraud, even though scientific research has shown it is extremely rare.
More than a dozen states still refuse to release detailed voter data to President Donald Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which is investigating voter fraud.
The commission has stirred controversy from the moment it was established last spring. Critics say Trump is using it to find support for his unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud that cost him the popular vote during the 2016 election. Democrat Hillary Clinton received 2.8 million more votes nationwide than Trump.
All states that have agreed to comply are withholding some details the commission sought and are releasing only information considered public under state law. The commission sent one request in late June and another in July after a court said the data collection could move ahead.
While there have been isolated cases of voter fraud in the US, there is no evidence of it being a widespread problem, as Trump suggests.
Critics argue the commission is stacked with people who favor voting restrictions, rather than those who want to expand access, and that the commission has a predetermined agenda that will result in recommendations making it more difficult for people to register to vote, stay registered and cast ballots.
Its first significant action was to request a wide range of information about all registered voters in every state, including partial Social Security numbers, dates of birth, addresses and voting history. The commission scaled back its response after stinging criticism.
A tally by Associated Press reporters nationwide shows that 15 states denied the request, raising questions about how useful the information will be. Here is how every state responded:
Secretary of State John Merrill, a Republican, said the commission can buy the information at a cost of more than $32,000. And it will exclude information such as Social Security and driver’s license numbers.
Josie Bahnke, director of the state Division of Elections, said the commission paid the $21 that is standard for these types of request for publicly available voter data. The information was sent to the commission in September.
Matt Roberts, spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office, said in early October that the office has yet to receive a formal request from the commission for the data. “In the secretary’s mind, we haven’t responded because we haven’t received anything that remotely resembles a formal public records request, nor the accompanying payment for said voter registration records,” Roberts said. He would not speculate on how the secretary would respond to such a request.
Arkansas says it’s received the letter and will provide publicly available information but not Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers or information about felony convictions or military status. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he recommended the secretary of state not release all the information, calling the panel’s request too broad.
Secretary of State Alex Padilla, a Democrat, reiterated his refusal to provide information to the commission on July 26. “The commission’s new request does nothing to address the fundamental problems with the commission’s illegitimate origins, questionable mission or the preconceived and harmful views on voting rights that many of its commissioners have advanced,” he said in a statement. “Let me reassure voters: I will not provide this commission with Californians’ personal voter data. I will continue to do everything in my power to protect California citizens’ ability to exercise their rights to register and vote free of barriers and intimidation.”
Secretary of State Wayne Williams, a Republican, is providing all information permitted under state open records law — information available to anyone. What won’t be provided: full dates of birth, driver’s license information, Social Security numbers. He urged the commission to handle the data securely.
Secretary of State Denise Merrill initially said her office planned to partially comply, but in July sent a letter to the commission saying that fulfilling the request “is not in the best interest of Connecticut residents.” The letter said the commission’s request was overly broad and lacked assurances that the personal information gathered would be safeguarded.
After being inundated with calls from concerned citizens and meeting with her deputy attorney general, Delaware’s election commissioner said she will not provide the requested information. She also said she is drafting a policy stating that voter registration data, which is now available to anyone, will be made available only to candidates and political parties and only for political use, not for commercial purposes. She plans to follow up in January with legislation codifying the new policy. She had previously said she would not comply with the request for sensitive information, including birthdates, Social Security numbers and felony history. State law currently allows the commissioner to give voter registration data including names, addresses, political party, voting history, legislative district information and year of birth to members of the public.
“The best thing I can do to instill confidence among DC residents in our elections is to protect their personally identifiable information from the Commission on Election Integrity. Its request for voter information, such as Social Security numbers, serves no legitimate purpose and only raises questions on its intent,” Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a statement. “I will join leaders of states around the country and work with our partners on the Council to protect our residents from this intrusion.”
Florida on July 28 turned over data that it says is already public record under state law and is made available to other organizations that seek voter registration information. Secretary of State Ken Detzner, a Republican, previously told the commission that Florida law prohibits the state from turning over driver’s license information or Social Security numbers.
He also said they would not turn over the names of voters whose information is protected, such as judges or police officers. Sarah Revell, a spokeswoman for Detzner, said, “As we have said all along, we will follow Florida law and will only submit information that is already available and regularly provided to anyone who requests it.”
A group of plaintiffs, including the American Civil Liberties Union, filed a lawsuit and requested a temporary restraining order. But a U.S. district judge ruled that Florida could go ahead and deliver information that was publicly available under state law.
“The Georgia Secretary of State’s Office will provide the publicly available voter list. As specified in Georgia law, the public list does not contain a registered voter’s driver’s license number, Social Security number, month and day of birth, site of voter registration, phone number or email address.”
Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s spokeswoman Candice Broce said the state had received the second letter from the commission in late July. The state has not responded yet. Broce said the state didn’t provide any information to the first request and never received the $250 payment that the state charges anyone who wants a copy of the registered voter file.
State elections officials in Hawaii said the issue was up to clerks of the state’s four counties, which maintain voter registries. The clerks said in August that they would comply with the request.
But they said that all they could legally provide was the voter’s name, precinct and whether they voted in the last two elections. Party membership isn’t recorded on the rolls. Instead, that information is held by the parties themselves.
The Idaho secretary of state’s office has turned over voters’ names, addresses and other public information. Information about driver’s license numbers, the last four digits of Social Security numbers and date of births are not releasable under the state’s public records law even though that data is collected on registration forms.
The State Board of Elections has not turned over information to the commission, citing concerns that doing so would violate state law. In September, the board voted to send a letter to the commission seeking more information about how the voter data would be used and the legal authority the commission believes it has to keep the voter information confidential.
Ken Menzel, general counsel for the board, said the Illinois attorney general believes federal law would require the information be made public, which would violate state law. He also noted the attorney general’s concern over whether the commission would use the information for “a proper governmental purpose,” as required under Illinois law. The letter also informed the commission that release of the data costs $500.
As of early October, the state had yet to act on the request. Officials said release of the voter list requires approval of both directors of the Indiana Election Division. A lawsuit over the request seeking to block the state from handing over the voter data was still pending in federal court.
Paul Pate, the Republican secretary of state, said: “There is a formal process for requesting a list of registered voters, as specified in Iowa Code. We will follow that process if a request is made that complies with Iowa law. The official list request form is available on the Iowa Secretary of State’s website, sos.iowa.gov.”
Pate said some voter registration information is a matter of public record. However, he said, providing personal voter information, such as Social Security numbers, is forbidden under Iowa Code.
“We will only share information that is publicly available and complies with Iowa Code. The commission will have to follow the same process candidates, political parties, media organizations, and everyone else follows when requesting a voter list,” Pate said.”
Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a Republican, is vice chairman of the commission, but even his office does not plan to provide the last four digits of Social Security numbers because that’s not publicly available under Kansas law, spokeswoman Samantha Poetter said. All information that is publicly available will be provided.
“As the commonwealth’s secretary of state and chief election official, I do not intend to release Kentuckians’ sensitive personal data to the federal government,” Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said in a statement. “The president created his election commission based on the false notion that ‘voter fraud’ is a widespread issue. It is not.”
On July 26, Grimes again told the commission no. The Democrat said, “The compilation of every American voter’s information would build a national voter registration database, which is unnecessary to improving our elections, opposite our Constitution and state’s rights, and puts voters’ privacy and personal data at risk.”
Secretary of State Tom Schedler, a Republican, won’t provide personal voter information, like Social Security numbers or birth dates. He says the commission can have the information that is publicly available — but only if the commission buys it like anyone else. Schedler calls the effort a politically motivated federal overreach.
He said: “The release of private information creates a tremendous breach of trust with voters who work hard to protect themselves against identity fraud. That’s why it is protected by six federal laws and two state laws. This Commission needs to understand clearly, disclosure of such sensitive information is more likely to diminish voter participation rather than foster it. I have been fighting this kind of federal intrusion and overreach, and will continue to fight like hell for the people who trust me with the integrity of our election process.”
Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, a member of the voting commission, rejected the request, saying it’s not clear the commission has the authority to keep records confidential. He arrived at that decision after a re-evaluation. He initially rejected the request, then said on July 27 that he’d look at it again after the commission renewed the request.
Maryland’s election commissioner denied the request after receiving an opinion from Democratic Attorney General Brian Frosh, who said disclosure of the requested information is prohibited by law, and who also called the request for information “repugnant.” Frosh also said it appears to be designed only to intimidate voters and indulge Trump’s “fantasy” that he won the popular vote.
A spokesman for Secretary of State William Galvin, a Democrat, said the state’s voter registry is not a public record and information in it will not be shared with the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.
A spokesman for Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said the department will provide publicly available information but would exclude data including Social Security and driver’s license numbers and full dates of birth. Fred Woodhams also said the commission would have to make a freedom of information request and pay $23 to get the data.
Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon, a Democrat, announced he would not share the data with Trump’s commission. “I will not hand over personal data on the nearly four million Minnesotans who are registered to vote,” he said in a statement. “I have serious doubts about the commission’s credibility and trustworthiness, and I fear it risks becoming a partisan tool to shut out millions of eligible American voters. In addition, Minnesotans who registered to vote never thought their personal data would end up in some federal database.”
In a federal court case after a contentious U.S. Senate primary in Mississippi in 2014, a group called True the Vote sued Mississippi seeking similar information about voters. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, a Republican, fought that request and won.
Hosemann said if he received a request from the Trump commission, “My reply would be: They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico, and Mississippi is a great state to launch from.” He later said he would give the commission any voter information that is publicly available but he would not provide voters’ dates of birth or partial Social Security numbers.
In Missouri, Republican Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft said he is happy to “offer our support in the collective effort to enhance the American people’s confidence in the integrity of the system.”
Ashcroft’s spokeswoman, Maura Browning, said the state is only providing publicly available information. She said that means no Social Security numbers, no political affiliations and no details on how people voted.
Derek Oestreicher, the director of elections and voter services, said the secretary of state’s office will not release personal or confidential information such as Social Security numbers and birth dates.
Information already available publicly in the state’s voter file includes a voter’s name, registration status, voting status and the reason the voter is designated as active or inactive. Voter information does not include party affiliation because Montana has an open primary system and voters do not register under any specific party.
Secretary of State John Gale, a Republican, says he’s willing to provide publicly available information but only with assurances that the data won’t be used in a way that runs afoul of state law. State law prohibits the use of data for commercial purposes and does not allow the release of Social Security numbers.
Additionally, the law doesn’t allow the release of information such as felony convictions or whether a voter’s registration status is active or inactive, so Gale won’t release that information. Gale said he has concerns about voter privacy and wants assurances that information is protected in any kind of national database.
Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske says her office has not changed its position in the wake of the renewed commission request.
It will provide public information but not data kept confidential under state law such as Social Security numbers or how people voted. The state will turn over voter names, addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, party affiliation and turnout.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Comply
As a result of a legal challenge regarding the information, New Hampshire is sending the commission millions of scanned and unsearchable images of voter information. Secretary of State Bill Gardner, a member of the commission, said his office will provide public information: names, addresses, party affiliations and voting history dating to 2006.
Voting history includes whether someone voted in a general election and which party’s primary they voted in. Gardner spent several hours on Independence Day taking calls from angry residents, and said the next day that he disagrees with critics who say he lacks legal authority to send voter roll information.
NEW JERSEY: Comply
New Jersey Elections Director Robert Giles said in August that he had sent data to the commission. The records included the names, addresses and history of which elections voters cast ballots in. It did not include partial Social Security numbers, which are not public records in the state.
NEW MEXICO: Deny
Democratic Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse-Oliver has reaffirmed that she will never release personally identifiable information for New Mexico voters that is protected by law, including Social Security numbers and dates of birth.
She says that sharing that information with the commission may discourage people from registering to vote. She has declined to provide information such as names and voting histories unless she is convinced the information is secure and will not be used for “nefarious or unlawful purposes.”
NEW YORK: Comply
Officials announced Aug. 2 that they would honor a new public information request from the commission but would not supply some details, such as Social Security numbers. This represents a reversal for the state.
Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state would not comply, in part because the state “refuses to perpetuate the myth voter fraud played a role in our election.”
NORTH CAROLINA: Comply
North Carolina’s elections board has provided a link to election data already accessible by the public that leave out voters’ birth dates and Social Security and driver’s license numbers, which are confidential. The public information does include voters’ names, addresses, political affiliations, demographic data and participation in past elections.
NORTH DAKOTA: Deny
Secretary of State Al Jaeger notified the commission in September that North Dakota will not release the information. Jaeger noted that North Dakota does not have voter registration and state law forbids the state from releasing details about voters.
Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, issued a statement saying voter registration information is already public and available to the commission but that he will not provide the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers or their driver’s license numbers.
He also said voter fraud is rare in the state and that bipartisan boards have conducted reviews of credible reports of voter fraud and suppression after the last three federal elections. Those results are in the public domain and available to the commission, he said.
Husted added, “In responding to the commission, we will have ideas on how the federal government can better support states in running elections. However, we will make it clear that we do not want any federal intervention in our state’s right and responsibility to conduct elections.”
A spokesman for the Oklahoma State Election Board said the state will not provide the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers. “That’s not publicly available under the laws of our state,” Bryan Dean said.
He said the commission’s request will be treated like any other from the general public. The election board will tell the panel to fill out a form available online asking for the information.
Oklahoma’s voter roll is routinely provided to political campaigns, the press and other groups that ask for it. Dean reaffirmed on July 27 that the agency will provide the same information to the commission that is available to the general public.
The state turned over its voter list after the Trump voting commission paid the $500 fee. Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, a Republican, said he is prohibited by law from disclosing Social Security and driver’s license numbers. Made available to the commission were names, addresses, effective registration dates and status, birth year, precinct name, political party affiliation and voter participation history.
Two members of Oregon’s congressional delegation and Democratic Gov. Kate Brown had urged Richardson to refuse the commission’s request. Richardson said in a letter to Kobach that there is “very little evidence” of voter fraud or registration fraud in Oregon. “I do not believe the federal government should be involved in dictating how states conduct their elections,” he said.
Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, wrote a long letter saying that the state will not cooperate at all but that the state will sell them the same data the public can purchase. It can’t be posted online, however.
RHODE ISLAND: Comply
Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea, a Democrat, says she won’t share some of the voter information requested by the presidential commission. Gorbea says she won’t release Social Security information or information regarding felony or military status.
SOUTH CAROLINA: Deny
The state’s election commission said in a statement that “release of voter data to anyone who is not a registered South Carolina voter is not permitted by state law.” Voter data (except party affiliation and Social Security numbers) are available to South Carolina residents for $2,500 as long as it is not used for commercial purposes.
In mid-August, the state Republican Party purchased both the statewide file and an updated file on voters in the 5th Congressional District — following a June special election — for about $2,900. It sent the information to the national GOP, state director Hope Walker said. The state party will send the information to the Trump administration whenever it’s requested, she said.
SOUTH DAKOTA: Comply
Secretary of State Shantel Krebs said the commission can buy South Dakota’s statewide voter registration file for $2,500. Krebs initially declined to share information but said the commission’s second request asked for data that is available to anyone under state law. Driver’s license and Social Security numbers, as well as full birth dates, will be redacted.
Secretary of State Tre Hargett, a Republican: “Although I appreciate the commission’s mission to address election-related issues, like voter fraud, Tennessee state law does not allow my office to release the voter information requested to the federal commission.”
Although Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos, a Republican, said he would provide publicly available information, a state judge in early October issued a temporary restraining order that prohibited its release. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton appealed that order, and a hearing was scheduled for Oct. 23.
Republican Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said he will send information classified as public, but voters’ Social Security numbers and dates of birth are protected. However, the data has not been sent because of a pending lawsuit in the state.
Democratic Secretary of State Jim Condos says he is awaiting the outcome of lawsuits filed against the commission. He said there is no evidence of the kind of fraud alleged by Trump.
“I believe these unproven claims are an effort to set the stage to weaken our democratic process through a systematic national effort of voter suppression and intimidation,” Condos said.
“At best, this commission was set up as a pretext to validate Donald Trump’s alternative election facts, and at worst is a tool to commit large-scale voter suppression,” said Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a Republican, has directed the commission to her office’s website, where it can request a download of the voter registration database. Names, addresses and dates of birth are the only public information. Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, phone numbers and email addresses are not public records and will not be released.
WEST VIRGINIA: Comply
Republican Secretary of State Mac Warner’s office said in a statement that state law prohibits disclosing Social Security and driver’s license numbers, phone numbers and some other details. The office also notes that it can charge $500 for the voter registration list and another $500 for data that shows elections in which each voter cast a ballot.
Administrator Mike Haas issued a statement saying most of the information in the state’s voter registration system is public, including voters’ names, addresses and voting history. The state doesn’t collect any data about a voter’s political preference or gender, he said.
The data is available for purchase and must be release to buyers, Haas said, adding that the commission routinely sells the information to political parties, candidates and researchers. The commission would charge the presidential panel $12,500 for the data, the maximum amount allowed under agency rules, he said.
State law doesn’t contain any provisions for waiving the fee, he said. Wisconsin law allows the commission to share voter birthdates, driver’s license numbers and Social Security numbers only with police and other state agencies, and the presidential commission doesn’t appear to qualify, he said.
Secretary of State Ed Murray, a Republican, said in a statement that he would “safeguard the privacy of Wyoming’s voters because of my strong belief in a citizen’s right to privacy.” Also, he expressed concern the request could lead to “federal overreach.”
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15 states are refusing to hand over voter data to Trump’s panned election commission — here’s how every state has responded syndicated from http://personalinjuryattorneyphiladelphia.blogspot.com/