Refusing to Abet Suppression, States Reject Trump Demand for Voter Data
"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."
A handful of states are pushing back against a sweeping demand from a controversial Trump voting commission for information about voters in every state.
Trump's Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity was met with outrage at its inception last month, as it is headed by "notorious vote suppressor" Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach and is tasked with investigating "the imagined scourge of voter fraud."
But a request the commission sent Wednesday to the 50 states and District of Columbia requesting voter names, birthdays, the last four digits of their Social Security numbers, felony convictions, military status, and their voting history dating back to 2006 was met with swift rebuke. While one civil rights group called it a "meritless inquisition," Esquire political columnist Charles Pierce characterized the move as "the final step backwards across the Edmund Pettus Bridge."
Advocacy organization Common Cause welcomed the fact that several election officials have voiced their concerns about the information request. The organization's president, Karen Hobert Flynn, said they were right to be wary:
First, some of the information sought by the Commission's Co-Chair, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, isn't publicly available data, and disclosure of such data runs the risk of rampant privacy breaches. Second, it's clear from Kobach's request that he will attempt to match data obtained from the state elections officials and from the DOJ requests, as he and several states have already done through his faulty Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck program. This program has improperly cut hundreds of thousands of eligible voters from the registration rolls due to mismatches, in clear violation of the National Voter Registration Act. As he's also publicly stated, Kobach intends to check voter registration data against the SAVE (Systematic Alien Verification Entitlements) database to determine whether non-citizens are on the rolls despite the fact that the Department of Homeland Security has clarified that this is not an accurate database for updated citizenship records.
California's response to the request? Not a chance.
In a press statement that notes the president "has falsely alleged that three to five million votes were cast illegally in the 2016 election," Secretary of State Alex Padilla said "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 appointment of Kobach—who has a long history of sponsoring discriminatory, anti-immigrant policies including voter suppression and racial profiling laws—sends a clear and ominous message. His role as vice chair is proof that the ultimate goal of the commission is to enact policies that will result in the disenfranchisement of American citizens," Padilla said.
Virginia's not getting on board either.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe said Thursday: "I have no intention of honoring this request. Virginia conducts fair, honest, and democratic elections, and there is no evidence of significant voter fraud in Virginia. This entire commission is based on the specious and false notion that there was widespread voter fraud last November. 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."
Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin also said he also wouldn't provide the information to the commission.
Connecticut, Colorado, Iowa, and Rhode Island responded by saying they would only provide data that is publicly available. Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, for her part, told MSNBC Friday: "First of all, I think this is an alarming request. I don't know where it's coming from. We know that voter fraud is not widespread."
Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes also said she would not release "Kentuckians' sensitive personal data to the federal government."
"Kentucky will not aid a commission that is at best a waste of taxpayer money and at worst an attempt to legitimize voter suppression efforts across the country," she said.
According to Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, "States are right to balk at turning over massive reams of personal information in what clearly is a campaign to suppress the vote."