Last week, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity sent notices to all 50 states and the District of Columbia seeking a wide array of information on registered voters, and asked them to supply that information through a special online portal.
The letters ask the states for “public” information, but goes on to list registrants’ full names, addresses, dates of birth, political parties, the last four digits of their Social Security numbers, elections they voted in since 2006, information on felony convictions, information on whether they were registered to vote in other states, military status, and whether they lived overseas.
States are governed by their own election laws, and most tightly restrict the voter information available. In Indiana, it’s limited to name, address and congressional district. Interestingly, Secretary of State Connie Lawson is a member of the commission but was forced to issue her own statement declining the request of further information. “Indiana law doesn’t permit the Secretary of State to provide the personal information requested ...,” Lawson said in a prepared statement. “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.”
Kris Kobach, the crusading Kansas secretary of state who serves as vice chair of Trump’s commission (which is chaired by Vice President and former Indiana Gov. Mike Pence), should have known better. Even his own state cannot by law release most of the information being sought.
This attempted deep dive into election data is troublesome. The presidential commission was created to investigate President Trump’s unsubstantiated claim that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election and cost him to lose the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by around 3 million votes. He prevailed in the Electoral College, which selects presidents.
It is important to note that no evidence of widespread voter fraud exists in any state. Still, Trump created the commission to search for a problem that doesn’t exist. Even more worrisome, the commission may try to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. Doing so amounts to voter suppression which attempts to keep certain segments of eligible voters away from the polls. It is a waste of public resources being expended for partisan gain.
Fortunately, most states are showing no inclination to cooperate with the effort. The only data the commission should be able to obtain is that which is available to any citizen. What’s more, the commission should have to go through the same steps any citizen would follow to obtain public records and not receive special treatment of any kind.
We hope more states stand their ground and refuse to bend to pressure from this ill-conceived federal commission.