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House Dems call for Kobach's removal from voter fraud commission

House Dems call for Kobach's removal from voter fraud commission
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The top Democrats on four key House committees are calling on Vice President Pence to boot Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach off President TrumpDonald John TrumpAccuser says Trump should be afraid of the truth Woman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Shulkin says he has White House approval to root out 'subversion' at VA MORE's voter fraud commission and rescind the panel's request for sensitive voter data.

In a Tuesday letter to Pence, Reps. John ConyersJohn James ConyersSchatz's ignorance of our Anglo-American legal heritage illustrates problem with government Dem consultant resigns in face of sexual misconduct allegation Tillerson announces mandatory sexual harassment training for State Dept. MORE Jr. (D-Mich.), the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee; Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsOvernight Cybersecurity: Lawyer charged in Mueller probe pleads guilty to lying | Sessions launches cyber task force | White House tallies economic impact of cyber crime Oversight Dems urge Equifax to extend protections for breach victims Top Oversight Dem pushes for White House opioid briefing MORE (D-Md.), the ranking member on the Oversight Committee; Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonRanking Homeland Security Democrat rebukes FBI over Florida shooting Democrats propose .7 billion in grants for election security House Dem opposition mounts to budget deal MORE (D-Miss.), the ranking member on the Homeland Security Committee; and Robert Brady (D-Pa.), the ranking member on the House Administration Committee, allege that Kobach, who serves as the panel's vice chairman, has used his position on the commission to advance his own campaign for governor of Kansas.

"Mr. Kobach has repeatedly claimed, falsely, that widespread voter fraud exists and advertises his work on the Commission to promote his own campaign for governor of Kansas," the lawmakers wrote. 

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"These actions undermine the integrity of the Commission and raise significant concerns that the Commission will be used as a tool for voter suppression."

It also alleges that a June 28 request by Kobach that state election officials provide troves of sensitive information on voters violates federal privacy laws, and it failed to provide a detailed disclosure of how the data would be used and stored.

So far, dozens of secretaries of state have pushed back against that request for information, with some saying that disclosing such data would violate state laws. Others have refused to comply because they say the commission is intended to suppress minority voters and improperly purge state voter rolls.

Among the types of information requested by the panel are names, driver's license numbers and the last four digits of voters' social security numbers. Kobach has defended the request, explaining that the commission only asked for publicly available information. 

Trump tapped Kobach, one of the nation's most ardent advocates for voter identification laws, to serve as the vice chairman of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which the president created to investigate his widely debunked claim that millions of illegal voters cost him the popular vote in the 2016 election.

Less than a month later, Kobach launched a campaign for Kansas governor. 

But in their letter, Conyers, Cummings, Thompson and Brady say that by spotlighting his commission role on his gubernatorial campaign website and during campaign appearances, Kobach is violating a federal election law called the Hatch Act, which bars executive branch employees from using their positions to benefit political campaigns. 

"Mr. Kobach should step down as Vice-Chair and be replaced with an individual who can be trusted to ensure that the Commission operates in a bipartisan manner to protect voter information and to protect the right of Americans to vote," they wrote.