White House, States Fight over Your Personal Voter Data

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who serves as vice-chair of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Election Integrity, sent a letter to every secretary of state in the US this week asking them to send publicly-available data on their voter rolls.

The information requested includes: full names of every registered voter, addresses, dates of birth, political party (if available), last four digits of social security numbers, voting history dating back to 2006, active/inactive status, cancelled status, felony convictions, and more.

The goal of the request is to analyze the data to identify potential voter fraud. Kobach gave the secretaries of state until July 14 to reply to the request.

ALSO READ: Election Integrity Commission: Partisan Politics? Or Real Reform?

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla released a statement Thursday, with a firm answer: No.

“As Secretary of State, it is my duty to ensure the integrity of our elections and to protect the voting rights and privacy of our state’s voters,” said Padilla. “I will not provide sensitive voter information to a commission that has already inaccurately passed judgment that millions of Californians voted illegally.”

He added, “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.”

As Secretary of State, it is my duty to ensure the integrity of our elections and to protect the voting rights and privacy of our state's voters.
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla

Padilla is not alone. Twenty-one other states have reportedly signaled that they will not comply with the request or said they would only give some of the information requested.

Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill said she would share some publicly available information, but expressed concern about the “lack of openness” about what Kobach and the panel are looking for.

She also raised issue with Kobach’s record.

“Given Secretary Kobach’s history we find it very difficult to have confidence in the work of this commission,” said Merrill.

Merrill is referring specifically to Kobach’s tenure as Kansas’ secretary of state, and his handling of the state’s voter rolls.

In his push to combat voter fraud, Kobach purged thousands from Kansas’ voter rolls and created a “two-class system” to divide voters who registered with the state voter registration form and the federal voter registration form. Both policies have been thrown out in court.

ALSO READ: Something Smells in Kansas — And It Ain’t The Cows

Padilla and Merrill have expressed concern that the registration status of eligible voters in their state may be threatened.

There are important reasons why the voter roll is publicly available information.
Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams

Republican Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, for his part, said he was not concerned with what the commission planned to do with the data.

“Just like when we get a [public-records] request, we don’t demand to know what they are going to do with the data,” he said. “There are important reasons why the voter roll is publicly available information.”

Interesting to note, one of the recommendations of the Obama administration’s election commission after a six-month review was that states should share voter registration records across state lines to protect against fraud.

The response to Kobach’s request has received major pushback from both sides of the aisle on what is typically a deeply partisan issue. Deep blue states like California continue to resist the Trump administration at every opportunity, but even many Republican officials are reluctant to hand over their state’s voter data.

What do you think? Is this move by Kobach and the Trump administration purely politically motivated? Is the response from secretaries of state like Alex Padilla? Or are the intentions of either side nobler than that?