Election fraud panel renews request for voter data

Election fraud panel renews request for voter data
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The presidential panel tasked with examining alleged voter fraud during the 2016 elections is renewing its request that state elections officials turn over reams of voter data.

In a letter sent to election officials this week, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), vice chairman of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, said the panel was renewing its request for voter data after a district court rejected an effort to block the data collection.

Kobach told elections officials, many of whom raised privacy concerns when the panel first made its request, that the commission would protect voter privacy.

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“The only information that will be made public are statistical conclusions drawn from the data, other general observations that may be drawn from the data, and any correspondence that you may send to the Commission in response” to detailed questions the commission sought, Kobach wrote.

“Let me be clear, the Commission will not release any personally identifiable information from voter registration records to the public,” Kobach wrote.

Marc Lotter, a spokesman for Vice President Pence, who chairs the commission, said the letter is meant as a follow-up to a letter the panel sent to elections officials on July 10 suspending the initial request. That letter came after the lawsuit filed in a D.C. district court.

Secretaries of state from both parties strongly objected to the commission’s initial request, made in late June, to send voter registration data including partial Social Security numbers, voting histories and criminal records. Mississippi’s Republican secretary of State told the commission it could "go jump in the Gulf of Mexico."

The privacy concerns first raised by state elections officials were exacerbated when the commission released public feedback it had received — without redacting personal contact information attached to those emails.

Several secretaries of state said they were reviewing the new request, to see whether or how their states could comply.

Idaho Secretary of State Lawerence Denney (R), whose office released the letter from Kobach’s commission, said in a statement the commission had addressed privacy concerns.

A spokesman for Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan (R), whose office had rejected the Kobach commission’s initial request, told the Arizona Republic the office’s legal team was reviewing the new request.

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams (R) called the privacy assurances and a promise to handle the data securely “a significant improvement” over the initial request. Williams urged the thousands of Colorado voters who had de-registered in protest of the initial request to sign up once again.

“It’s my hope that citizens who withdrew their registration will re-register, particularly once they realize that no confidential information will be provided and that the parties and presidential candidates already have the same publicly available information from the 2016 election cycle,” Williams said in a statement.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D) said his office would continue to refuse to send voter data to the Kobach commission.

“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,” Padilla said in a statement. “I will not provide this commission with Californians’ personal voter data.”

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R), who had been more supportive of the Kobach commission than most other state election officials, has not yet responded to the commission’s new request, a spokeswoman told The Hill. The spokeswoman, Candice Broce, said Kemp’s office has yet to hear whether the commission will pay the standard $250 fee to obtain voter data.

Though a federal district judge in Washington ruled against efforts to halt the commission’s data collection efforts, other lawsuits are still pending. The New Hampshire chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has challenged Secretary of State Bill Gardner’s plans to share voter data with the commission; that case has an initial hearing scheduled for Aug. 7 in state court in Nashua.

 

This story was updated at 11:27 a.m.