The hotly controversial request for voter information from an ad hoc panel working for Donald Trump has been renewed. UPDATE: Arkansas has already turned its data over, to a White House computer portal.
Vice Chair Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state infamous for bogus voter fraud claims, sent letters to all 50 states asking for all publicly available voter information. California has already refused. His first request met resistance in all or part from 44 states. Said Secretary of State Alex Padilla:
“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.”
Only Arkansas supplied information before the request was withdrawn on account of pending lawsuits. The commission, later given a pass by a federal judge in one case now on appeal, told Arkansas officials that information was “deleted.”
In his second letter, Kobach said he would not release any “personally identifiable information” and the commission would delete voter information, as permitted by federal law, once its work concluded.
“Individuals’ voter registration records will be kept confidential and secure throughout the duration of the commission’s existence,” Kobach wrote in the Wednesday letter. “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’ responding to questions in the June 28 letter.
He’s apparently still requesting the same information, which includes the last four digits of a Social Security number and military and criminal records if publicly available.
Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin sent Kobach earlier files that included names, addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, birth dates and voting history (which elections, including which primaries) and party identification). This information is available on disk to anyone who asks for a $2 charge and is often tapped by political parties and candidates for get-out-the-vote efforts. Nonetheless, many voters haven’t been happy to learn this personal information is being shared so widely. Martin wasn’t too happy to get calls at home after his information was shared. In some states, voters have canceled registration rather than having information shared.
Critics say the Kobach approach is a flawed way to produce evidence of voter fraud. It’s not illegal to be registered in more than one state (as, for example, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge was when she ran) and duplicate names make voter name matchups unreliable. The effort is tied to Trump’s often voiced but unsubstantiated belief that he lost to Hillary Clinton in the popular vote count by 3 million votes. He fails to realize the suggestion of widespread fraud calls into question his own electoral college victory. Studies indicate vote suppression laws by Republicans in key battleground states decided by razor-thin margins would be a more fruitful area of inquiry.
I asked Martin’s office this morning whether it had received the letter and requested a copy of it. I also asked if the information had already been sent, or would be sent, in the same manner as before. As yet, no response.
Mark Martin is friendly with Kobach. As a result, a former Democratic legislator, David Dunn, who’s now a lobbyist, is on the commission. He’s defended the work but said the commission would work to ensure privacy.
ALSO: The Commission is getting sued all over the place, though not yet in Arkansas. Here’s a list.
UPDATE: I got a late afternoon response from Chris Powell in the secretary of state’s office:
yes, we did receive another letter from the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. A copy of the letter is attached. As before, they requested only voter data that is publicly available. We are complying with that request and uploaded the data at approximately 3:30 this afternoon. We realize that a number of citizens have strong opinions regarding this process. We have set up a hotline at 501-435-3294, where they may call and voice their opinion.