UPDATE: White House election fraud commission halts collection of voter data

UPDATE 3 — 7/11, 9:48 a.m. EDT: In the face of three lawsuits filed over the past week, the White House’s presidential election commission has told states via email to “hold on” to any voter information requested by the Trump administration while a federal judge decides the Electronic Privacy Information Center case, which requested a temporary injunction against the panel.

 

UPDATE 2 — 7/10, 5:50 p.m. EDT: Two lawsuits were filed in federal court Monday against the White House’s election fraud panel, as the ACLU  and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law accused the Trump administration of breaking federal public access and transparency provisions laid out in the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA).

On Wednesday, the Electronic Privacy Information Center sued in the same Washington, D.C., district court, seeking an injunction against the administration’s collection of state voter records under FACA. The  Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity responded by arguing it is not required to adhere to the 1972 law.

 

UPDATE — 7/4, 7:09 p.m. EDT: CNN is reporting that all but six states across the country are not cooperating at least in-part with the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity’s request for personal information about voters.

The commission’s vice-chairman, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, has cited a 2012 Pew Center on the States study which recommended updating state voter rolls, as an estimated total of 1.8 million deceased are still listed as eligible to vote.

“Now, for the first time, we can actually bounce the states’ voter rolls against the Social Security administration’s own database to find out how many of those people actually are on the voter rolls,” he said.

 

President Trump’s executive voter fraud commission is facing stiff resistance from half of all U.S. states after sending a formal request to 50 state secretaries Wednesday for individual voter data, including voting and criminal histories, as well as social security numbers.

As of late Friday, 25 states have refused to hand over at least some of the White House’s requested information, including Republican-controlled Indiana, Iowa, Georgia, Mississippi and Oklahoma, as well as conservative states with Democratic executives, like Kentucky and North Carolina.

State secretaries have generally expressed concern about privacy and legal issues regarding the commission’s request, chaired by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, although some of the data inquired about is already public.

“The commission very clearly is requesting publicly available data in accordance with each state’s laws in an effort to increase the integrity of our election system,” Pence spokesman, Jarrod Agen, said in a statement. “The commission’s goal is to protect and preserve the principle of one person, one vote because the integrity of the vote is the foundation of our democracy.”

Reliably Democratic states, however, like California, New York and Massachusetts, are openly critical of the commission’s objectives and subsequent methods, accusing the administration of trying to suppress voter turnout in future elections to the benefit of Republican candidates.

Even more moderate Democrats from so-called red states have blasted the White House’s attempt to obtain personal voter information, even though some of the data is commonly purchased and used by political parties and individual campaigns.

Former Missouri secretary of state and U.S. Senate candidate, Jason Kander, said Trump’s motives may be even be more sinister than just voter suppression.

“It looks like they’re putting together a database of who people voted for,” said Kander. “This is from the same people . . . who’ve tried to make it harder for people to vote, and this seems like a step in the process. If the Obama administration had asked for this, Kris Kobach would be holding a press conference outside the Capitol to denounce it.”

While Wednesday’s letter is unprecedented on the national level, efforts by conservative activists to audit state voter rolls have been attempted at least 2008, when Barack Obama was elected to the White House.

Donald Trump also propagated the idea of massive voter fraud in America both before and after the November 2016 election, warning of such illegal activity on the campaign trail and then claiming, after losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton, that 3–5 million ballots were illegitimately cast.

Despite Trump’s unfounded claim, election law experts warn that if the commission collects enough state voter data the panel could ostensibly recommend legal restrictions that drive down public participation in elections.

“It could end up leading to trying to create a justification for more state laws that restrict voting in very serious and what are proven to be unlawful ways,” said former head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, Vanita Gupta. “And that’s through all kinds of cuts, through restrictive voter ID laws, through cuts in early voting [and] same day registration.”

 

[Washington Post] [The Hill] [USA Today] [Reuters] [Photo courtesy Stephen Melkisethian/flickr via Common Dreams]