Politics and civics

States say no to Trump Election Commission request for personal voter data

The Trump Administration wants detailed voter registration information to bolster a claim that millions voted illegally in 2016; only three states that have received letters still have no comment.


Update 5 (4 July, 1.10 am Pacific)
The following states (44 plus DC) have indicated that they will not provide the Kobach Commission with all of the information it requested on Wednesday. These states are either ignoring the request, complying with their state laws (the request is for more than publicly available information), or waiting for assurances on how the data will be used.

The following states have not received a letter:
ARHI (unlikely to acquiesce), IL, NM (no), SC (no), WV (no)

And these states have no decision or no comment:

On Wednesday, the Trump Administration sent letters to all 50 states asking for detailed voter registration information:

  1. First/Middle/Last names
  2. Date of birth
  3. Address
  4. Political party
  5. Last four digits of social security number
  6. Voting history since 2006
  7. Status (cancelled/inactive/active)
  8. Any registration in other states
  9. Felony convictions
  10. Military service
  11. Overseas voters

The man heading the effort to validate President Trump’s assertion that millions voted illegally is Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, in a unanimous opinion by Judge Jerome Holmes, who was appointed by George W. Bush, found that Kobach had engaged in “mass denial of a fundamental right” by blocking 18,000 motor voter applicants from registering to vote.

ProPublica reported:

The letter asked state officials to deliver the data within two weeks, and says that all information turned over to the commission will be made public. The letter does not explain what the commission plans to do with voter roll data, which often includes the names, ages and addresses of registered voters. The commission also asked for information beyond what is typically contained in voter registration records, including Social Security numbers and military status, if the state election databases contain it…

David Becker, the executive director of the Center for Election Innovation & Research, also expressed serious concerns about the request. “It’s probably a good idea not to make publicly available the name, address and military status of the people who are serving our armed forces to anyone who requests it,” he said.

Gizmodo noted that the email address states are to use to submit the data is not secure.

Marc Lotter, press secretary for Vice President Mike Pence, chairman of the commission, stated that “the letter was seeking information that is widely available in the public domain.” This is not true; only part of the information is public and some states restrict who can access the data and how it can be used.

The team behind the letter was ill-prepared. The letter included information that is not public (social), and it was sent to secretaries of state. Each state has a chief election official, but it may not be the secretary of state. From NCSL:

  • Elected secretary of state as chief election official: 24 states
    Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming.
  • Board or a commission that oversees elections: nine states
    Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, North Carolina, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Virginia and Wisconsin
  • Combination of a chief election official and a board or commission: seven states
    Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Rhode Island and West Virginia
  • Chief election official appointed by the governor: five states
    Delaware, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas
  • Chief election official selected by the legislature: three states
    Maine, New Hampshire and Tennessee
  • Elected lieutenant governor as the chief election official: two states
    Alaska and Utah

Moreover, each state has a protocol for obtaining this information. The letter attempted to short-circuit existing processes. And did so with an insecure email address.

Reasons to worry

Earlier this month, we learned that Deep Root Analytics, a Republican contractor that works for the Republican National Committee and other GOP clients, had left detailed information about 198 million U.S. voters online, unsecured, for two weeks.

The company also kept information on Americans’ voting histories and their reported enthusiasm for Trump, Vickery said. Some of the files assigned voters a score based on their views of 46 different issues ranging from immigration to trade. Nearly 170 gigabytes of the exposed data consisted of social media posts scraped from Reddit, he added.

In addition, Trump’s Department of Justice also sent letters asking for information on how states maintain voter rolls.

State laws vary

States differ on what types of voter registration information that they will share and with whom they will share it.

From Mother Jones:

Some states have laws that restrict how voter data can be shared, so secretaries of state could face legal repercussions if they follow the administration’s request and hand over voters’ sensitive information. There are good reasons for those laws: With all this data made public, for example, a person could look up nearby Democratic voters, track them down with their addresses, and harass them or intimidate them from voting. A business could use the data to market products to people registered with a certain political party, even though some state laws prohibit using voter data for commercial purposes.

Access to each state’s voter registration data request or the state’s election official:

  1. Alabama
  2. Alaska
  3. Arizona (no information about ordering data)
  4. Arkansas (pdf)
  5. California
  6. Colorado
  7. Connecticut
  8. Delaware (no information about ordering data)
  9. Florida
  10. Georgia
  11. Hawaii (no information about ordering data)
  12. Idaho (no information about ordering data)
  13. Illinois (no information about ordering data)
  14. Indiana (no information about ordering data)
  15. Iowa
  16. Kansas (pdf)
  17. Kentucky
  18. Louisiana (no information about ordering data)
  19. Maine
  20. Maryland
  21. Massachusetts (no information about ordering data)
  22. Michigan
  23. Minnesota
  24. Mississippi (no information about ordering data)
  25. Missouri (no information about ordering data)
  26. Montana
  27. Nebraska
  28. Nevada
  29. New Hampshire (no information about ordering data)
  30. New Jersey (no information about ordering data)
  31. New Mexico
  32. New York
  33. North Carolina
  34. North Dakota (no information about ordering data)
  35. Ohio
  36. Oklahoma
  37. Oregon
  38. Pennsylvania
  39. Rhode Island (no information about ordering data)
  40. South Carolina
  41. South Dakota (pdf)
  42. Tennessee (no information about ordering data)
  43. Texas (pdf)
  44. Utah
  45. Vermont (no information about ordering data)
  46. Virginia
  47. Washington
  48. West Virginia (pdf)
  49. Wisconsin
  50. Wyoming (pdf)

Additional information can be found at the U.S. Elections Project, although data about registration list availability is two years old (and laws could have been amended).

Contact your state elections administrator

Kobach wants a two-week turn-around on these data. Encourage your state elections administrator — some are Secretary of State, some run the Election Commission — to respond to the request only to the extent required by state law. Ask for reciprocity, like Connecticut Secretary of State.

Or just say no, like Mississippi:

Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, a Republican, said of Kobach’s letter: “My reply would be: They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico, and Mississippi is a great state to launch from. Mississippi residents should celebrate Independence Day and our state’s right to protect the privacy of our citizens by conducting our own electoral processes.”

Here’s a Twitter list of 36 secretaries of state or elections officials.

The remaining state websites:

  1. Alaska
  2. Delaware
  3. Georgia
  4. Hawaii
  5. Idaho
  6. Illinois
  7. Indiana
  8. New Hampshire
  9. New York
  10. North Dakota
  11. Oklahoma
  12. South Dakota
  13. West Virginia
  14. Wyoming


Commentary from elections analysts

Rick Hasen of the University of California-Irvine School of Law at ElectionLaw Blog:

Seems like this whole exercises of the sham voter fraud commission is designed to provide a pretext for Congress to amend the National Voter Registration Act to make it harder to register to vote (including by allowing states to require documentary proof of citizenship when registering in federal elections). No one should trust the likely shoddy data analysis of this commission headed by people with a track record for not being accurate about the prevalence of voter fraud, working for a President who has made wildly unsupported allegations of voter fraud.

Charles Stewart III writes in Politico:

I’ve been studying America’s election administration since 2000, and I’ve rarely seen a firestorm like this… If Kobach’s goal was to create a super crosscheck program, he would have been disappointed, even if every state had complied. His letter requests data that are ill-suited for accurate matching….

On top of concerns about the quality and use of the data, the Kobach letter raises a passel of privacy issues. How will the data base be housed and protected? Will the resulting national voter file be subject to federal FOIA requests? Will those requests be granted based on state or federal laws? Will the match lists that are produced be public documents? …

Taking a page from the Bauer-Ginsberg Commission, the Pence Commission could have made much more progress toward uncovering problems related to multiple voting and noncitizen voting if it had first asked the states and localities what they thought. What procedures do they currently undertake to maintain their rolls? What evidence do they have that double voting and noncitizen voting are problems in their states? What is their experience with the programs that exist to help states address these issues, such as the interstate cross-check program and the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC)?

Of course, asking experts their thoughts about a problem assumes that your goal is to identify and address problems. Given Kobach’s insistence, in the face of data, that widespread fraud exists, it’s little wonder than he spurned this approach.


Featured image (2012, Florida)
Updated: 3 July

By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

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