Trump election panel purchased Texas data identifying Hispanic voters: report

Trump election panel purchased Texas data identifying Hispanic voters: report
© Moriah Ratner

President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senator introduces bill to hold online platforms liable for political bias Rubio responds to journalist who called it 'strange' to see him at Trump rally Rubio responds to journalist who called it 'strange' to see him at Trump rally MORE’s now dissolved voting commission had asked Texas to turn over voting records that would identify all voters with Hispanic surnames, in addition to the regular detailed voter registration data other states provided, The Washington Post reported Monday.

The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity filled out forms asking Texas, the state with the second-largest Hispanic population in the U.S., to provide the “Hispanic surname flag notation,” according to the report, which cited copies of the signed and notarized Texas voter data request forms. 

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The president created the voting commission to investigate voter fraud, a move that came after he made the baseless claim that millions of illegal votes had been cast against him in the 2016 election, costing him the popular vote. Trump, however, disbanded the voting commission earlier this month, citing a handful of state and federal lawsuits against the panel. 

The Lone Star State has identified voters with a Hispanic name since 1983 in order to follow state and federal laws which require the state to send bilingual election notices that are written in both Spanish and English, Sam Taylor, a spokesman for Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos (R), told the Post. For such mailings, Taylor says Texas goes off the U.S. Census Bureau’s list of most common surnames by race and Hispanic origin.

Trump's voting commission never received the requested data because voting rights advocates in Texas filed a lawsuit last year that temporarily halted the document handoff, White House and Texas officials told the newspaper. 

Civil and voting rights groups warn such efforts not only raise privacy concerns but also effectively open the door for Latino voters as well as other minority groups to be targeted.

The commission, which paid Texas officials roughy $3,500 in late September for nearly 50 million records, promised to erase all the voter data it had amassed. 

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), who served as the vice chairman of the voting commission, denied pursuing data based on ethnicity.

“[A]t no time did the commission request any state to flag surnames by ethnicity or race. It’s a complete surprise to me,” he told the Post on Friday.

Although Kobach led the panel's initiative to collect voter data information across the country, commission policy adviser Ronald Williams signed off on the notarized form that would release the Texas voter records.

When the newspaper described the Texas documents in which they requested data highlighting Hispanic names, Kobach maintained that the commission did not sign off on the decision to check the box for such information.

“Mr. Williams did not ask any member of the commission whether he should check that box or not, so it certainly wasn’t a committee decision,” Kobach continued.

Such “information does not, did not advance the commission’s inquiry in any way, and this is the first I’ve heard the Texas files included that,” he continued, adding that such information for just one state would be “useless."

"It just doesn’t make any sense,” he said.

The Post was not able to reach Williams for comment.

The White House also denied seeking such information.

“There was never a request made to flag people based on their ethnicity,” a White House official told the Post on Friday. “That was never asked for, nor is that what this [Texas] response is saying, though I can see why some could read it that way.”

Following the panel's plan to delete the information it garnered, the commission also reportedly does not plan to release any data on its purchases.