President Donald Trump ordered the creation of an Advisory Commission on Election Integrity last month, but the first act of that commission – developed to detect the extent to which voter fraud played a part in the 2016 election – has been thwarted by half the states in the country. Last week, the group sent a request to all 50 states asking for voter information, including names, addresses, birth dates, party affiliations, felony convictions, military statuses, and partial Social Security numbers. As of Saturday, 25 states are refusing to cooperate with the request, which could put a quick end to Trump’s mission.
Some of the states rejecting the request include Wisconsin, New Mexico, Iowa, Kentucky, California, Connecticut, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.
Humorously, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said his state would not comply with the Social Security number request. Kobach is, of course, the head of the Presidential Advisory Commission as well.
In an interview with The Hill, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said she would not be handing the information over to the administration.
“The president created his election commission based on the false notion that ‘voter fraud’ is a widespread issue — it is not,” Grimes said. “I do not intend to release Kentuckians’ sensitive personal data to the federal government.”
While you might expect that kind of response from Democrats like Grimes, not all of the states rejecting the request are blue ones. Ohio Republican Jon Husted said that while “voter fraud happens,” his state was fully on top of the problem and did not need the feds to come in and rescue the integrity of their elections.
Kobach was irritated by the mass response and told NPR on Friday that he suspected that many of the states had ulterior motives for hiding their voter data.
“Frankly, if a state like Kentucky or California won’t provide available information, one has to ask the question, ‘Why not?'” Kobach said. “I mean, what are they trying to hide if they don’t want a presidential advisory commission to study their state voter rolls?”
It’s not clear if the executive branch really has the right to see all of the information they are requesting; some states, in fact, have laws specifically forbidding the exact kind of data sharing that the commission is asking for. And if the choice is between helping this commission and preserving state sovereignty, then Trump is really leaving the states with no choice.
We do believe that Trump is onto something that even many Republicans want to deny when it comes to widespread fraud, but this may not be the best way to go about solving the problem.