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44 states refuse to give certain voter info to Trump commission
02:07 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Two states are still reviewing the commission's request and another two states have not returned CNN's request for comment

Six states are still awaiting a letter from the commission, but four of them have already pledged not to provide voters' private information

Washington, DC CNN  — 

Forty-four states and the District of Columbia have refused to provide certain types of voter information to the Trump administration’s election integrity commission, according to a CNN inquiry to all 50 states.

State leaders and voting boards across the country have responded to the letter with varying degrees of cooperation – from altogether rejecting the request to expressing eagerness to supply information that is public.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, vice chairman of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which President Donald Trump created by executive order in May, sent a letter to all 50 states last Wednesday requesting a bevy of voter data, which he notes will eventually be made available to the public.

The order came months after Trump claimed without evidence that millions had voted illegally in the 2016 presidential election. When states began to express concerns about the legality of his administration’s efforts to investigate voter fraud, Trump called them out on Twitter on Saturday, questioning whether they were hiding something.

“Numerous states are refusing to give information to the very distinguished VOTER FRAUD PANEL. What are they trying to hide?” Trump tweeted.

The information the commission is seeking includes registrants’ full names, addresses, dates of birth, political parties, the last four digits of their social security numbers, a list of the elections they voted in since 2006, information on any felony convictions, information on whether they were registered to vote in other states, their military status, and whether they lived overseas.

The vice chairman’s letter twice requests only “public” voter information, and Kobach clarified the specifics of his request Friday: “Every state receives the same letter, but we’re not asking for it if it’s not publicly available,” he told The Kansas City Star.

Kobach also told CNN’s Anderson Cooper last week, “Whatever a person on the street can walk in and get, that’s what we would like.”

Kobach cited a Pew Center on the States study from February 2012 that called for revisions of state voter registration lists.

“The Pew Center estimated last year that 1.8 million deceased people are still on the voter rolls throughout the states,” Kobach told Cooper. “They said that’s an estimate. They think it’s a low estimate. Now, for the first time, we can actually bounce the states’ voter rolls against the Social Security administration’s own database to find out how many of those people actually are on the voter rolls.”

The Kansas secretary also addressed the criticism from several secretaries of state over the past few days that the commission might be seeking to legitimize Trump’s assertions that widespread voter fraud cost him votes last November.

“First of all, the commission is not to prove or disprove what the President speculated about in January,” Kobach said. “The purpose of the commission is to find facts and put them on the table. Importantly, it’s a bipartisan commission.”

But the commission, which is chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, seemed to misunderstand voter privacy laws nationwide. Every state that responded to the commission’s letter said it could not provide Social Security numbers, for example. Others said they consider information such as birth dates and party affiliations to be private.

What’s more, Kobach asked states to supply the information through an online portal. Many states have rejected this specific request, noting that the commission should file a voter information request through established state websites, as any other party would.

As of Tuesday afternoon, two states – Florida and Nebraska – are still reviewing the commission’s request. Another two states – Hawaii and New Jersey – have not returned CNN’s request for comment. And while six states are still awaiting a letter from the commission, four of them – New Mexico, Michigan, South Carolina and West Virginia – have already pledged not to provide voters’ private information. The other two of those six states, Arkansas and Illinois, have not released statements ahead of receiving the letter.

Just three states – Colorado, Missouri and Tennessee – commended Kobach’s attempt to investigate voter fraud in their respective statements.

“We are very glad they are asking for information before making decisions,” said Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, a Republican. “I wish more federal agencies would ask folks for their opinion and for information before they made decisions.”

Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, also a Republican, echoed Williams’ sentiment in a statement Friday: “The commission’s questions are fair and we will be glad to assist in offering our thoughts on these important matters,” he said. “I look forward to working with Sec. Kris Kobach and the commission on its findings and offer our support in the collective effort to enhance the American people’s confidence in the integrity of the elections process.”

Other states were more critical. Nineteen openly criticized the commission’s request.

“The President’s Commission has quickly politicized its work by asking states for an incredible amount of voter data that I have, time and time again, refused to release,” said Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler, a Republican, on Monday afternoon. “My response to the Commission is, you’re not going to play politics with Louisiana’s voter data, and if you are, then you can purchase the limited public information available by law, to any candidate running for office. That’s it.”

Mississippi’s Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, also a Republican, took the criticism a step further.

“My reply would be: They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico, and Mississippi is a great state to launch from,” Hosemann said in a statement Friday. “Mississippi residents should celebrate Independence Day and our state’s right to protect the privacy of our citizens by conducting our own electoral processes.”

Three state leaders also raised doubts about the integrity of the commission itself, and many questioned the existence of widespread voter fraud.

“This entire commission is based on the specious and false notion that there was widespread voter fraud last November,” Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, said Thursday. “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.”

“Given Sec. Kobach’s history we find it very difficult to have confidence in the work of this Commission,” Connecticut Sec. of State Denise Merrill, also a Democrat, said in a statement Thursday, pointing to what she alleged was Kobach’s “lengthy record of illegally disenfranchising eligible voters in Kansas.”

As Kansas’ secretary of state, Kobach backed a national cross-referencing system to allow states to check their voter rolls for overlaps, which drew criticisms that the system was too prone to allowing legitimate voters to be purged from voting systems. Kobach also fought unsuccessfully in court for the ability to require verification of citizenship on voter registration forms.

State of Play: Where do the states stand?

Alabama: “This office will not share any information not already available to the public. …” Secretary of State John Merrill said in a statement Friday. “The Secretary of State’s Office will comply with the request if we are convinced that the overall effort will produce the necessary results to accomplish the Commission’s stated goal without compromising the integrity of the voter rolls and the elections process in Alabama,”

Alaska: The Division of Elections will release only public information, according to a press release from Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott Friday. “State law allows only some information to be public. Public information does not include: last four numbers of SSN, date of birth, or residence address,” among other data.

Arizona: “We will only make available the same redacted information that is available to the general public through a public records request,” Secretary of State Michele Reagan said in a statement Friday. “Social security numbers, Date of Birth and identifying information such as Mother’s maiden name will not be transmitted. Arizona’s voters can expect to have their personal information remain private and safe.”

Arkansas: “We have not yet received a letter. When we do, we will review it,” Assistant Director of Communications and Education Chris Powell told CNN Monday, adding, “We’re keeping an eye out for it.”

California: “I will not provide sensitive voter information to a commission that has already inaccurately passed judgment that millions of Californians voted illegally. …” Secretary of State Alex Padilla said in a statement Thursday. “California’s participation would only serve to legitimize the false and already debunked claims of massive voter fraud made by the President, the Vice President, and Mr. Kobach. The President’s Commission is 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.”

Colorado: “We are very glad they are asking for information before making decisions. I wish more federal agencies would ask folks for their opinion and for information before they made decisions,” Secretary of State Wayne Williams said in a press release Thursday, which noted that his office will release voter-roll information that is public under state law but withhold data that is confidential.

Connecticut: “Given Secretary Kobach’s history we find it very difficult to have confidence in the work of this Commission,” Secretary of State Denise Merrill said in a statement Thursday.

District of Columbia: “The best thing I can do to instill confidence among DC residents in our elections is to protect their personal 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. I will join leaders of states around the country and work with our partners on the Council to protect our residents from this intrusion,” DC mayor Muriel Bowser said in a statement.

Delaware: “Releasing this information to the White House would not serve the mission of safeguarding the fairness and integrity of elections in Delaware and would not be in the best interests of Delaware voters,” said State Election Commissioner Elaine Manlove said in a statement Monday. Sec. of State Jeffrey Bullock echoed the sentiment in the same statement: “Delaware will not be a party to this disingenuous and inappropriate campaign against one of the nation’s foundational institutions.”

Florida: “We have received the letter. We are reviewing it,” Director of Communications Sarah Revell told CNN Monday. The Florida Senate, meanwhile, has written letter in opposition to the commission’s request.

Voting booths inside the Early Vote Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota on October 5, 2016.
States push back against voter fraud commission
02:20 - Source: CNN

Georgia: “The Georgia Secretary of State’s Office will provide the publicly available voter list,” Press Secretary Candice L. Broce told CNN Friday. “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.”

Hawaii: No response to CNN.

Idaho: “We are interpreting this as a public records request from the Commission,” Secretary of State Lawerence Denney said in a statement Monday. “As such, Idaho law requires me to respond ONLY with the non-exempt public records available under the request.” The statement also noted that “while additional information is requested in the letter (such as driver’s license and the last 4 of a voter’s social security number), that information is NOT considered public and Secretary Denney could not be compelled, outside of a specific court order detailing the need for and intended use of such data, to provide that information under Idaho Public Records statutes.”

Illinois: The Illinois State Board of Elections has not yet received the letter, a spokesperson told CNN Monday.

Indiana: “Indiana law doesn’t permit the Secretary of State to provide the personal information requested by Secretary Kobach,” Secretary of State Connie Lawson tweeted Friday. “Under Indiana public records laws, certain voter info is available to the public, the media and any other person who requested the information for non-commercial purposes. The information publicly available is name, address and congressional district assignment.

Iowa: “We will follow that process if a request is made that complies with Iowa law. …” Secretary of State Paul Pate tweeted Friday. “However, providing personal voter information, such as Social Security numbers, is forbidden under Iowa Code.”

Kansas: “Only “publicly available” information will be shared with the Commission,” Secretary Kobach’s spokeswoman Samantha Poetter told CNN Friday. “Any person in Kansas can obtain it. It is the basic information – name, address, etc. – not the sensitive information like last four SSN. That information is not publicly available, and therefore it is not part of the request.”

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01:53 - Source: CNN

Kentucky: “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