WASHINGTON: Several states have rejected a White House request for sensitive personal data on all registered voters, scoffing at President Donald Trump’s election fraud commission and warning the information could be misused in voter disenfranchisement efforts.
On Friday (Saturday in Manila), the number of states rejecting the request in full or in part grew to at least 13, including California, New York, Virginia and Indiana, which is home to Vice President Mike Pence, who leads the panel that was commissioned in May.
“I will not hand over Minnesota voters’ sensitive personal information to the commission,” said Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon.
“I have serious doubts about the commission’s credibility and trustworthiness.”
At least six of the officials, mostly secretaries of state, refusing to submit private data are from Trump’s Republican Party.
Trump created the controversial panel as a way to strengthen the integrity of the electoral process.
Critics fumed, given that proven instances of voter fraud are rare, and that Trump, just days after being sworn in, insisted without evidence that between three million and five million people voted illegally in the 2016 presidential election.
The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity further sounded alarm bells when its vice chair Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, sent a letter to all 50 states Wednesday asking for information on all registered voters.
Kobach sought names, addresses, date of birth, party affiliation, the last four digits of social security numbers, military status, data on felony convictions and “voter history.”
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla delivered a sharp rejection on Thursday, and warned that the appointment of Kobach, whom he said has a long history of sponsoring voter suppression efforts, “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.”
Much of the information is publicly accessibly. States that said they will not hand over private protected data, such as social security information, include Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Kentucky, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio and Rhode Island.
Several US states, mostly under Republican control, have tightened their voter identification laws, in moves that have been accused of being discriminatory.
Many Democratic lawmakers argue that requirements that voters produce identification like drivers licenses disproportionately disenfranchise minority and low-income Americans.
In May, the US Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that stated that a 2013 package of reforms in North Carolina, including a strict voter-ID requirement and restrictions on early voting, was enacted “with racially discriminatory intent.”
Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Grimes said she would not release voters’ 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.