While Donald Trump busied himself pestering his followers and the media with more salacious comments about Morning Joe hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity sent an alarming letter to all 50 states on Wednesday. Vice chairman and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach — who inadvertently gave the press a preview of his otherwise secret immigration proposals in late November — wrote the letter, which requested “publicly available voter roll data.” While such a request is legal, depending on the state, the information included therein is quite alarming.
As CNN notes, the information requested may include “full names of registered voters, dates of birth, party registration, last four digits of Social Security numbers and voting history.” It’s important to reiterate that most of this information is publicly available, a point Kobach repeated during a Friday afternoon appearance on NPR. “This is publicly available information. It’s just the voter rolls that any person on the street can walk into a county election office and get. It’s not sensitive information at all,” he explained. “The reason we’re requesting it is to understand issues of voter registration fraud.”
Legality notwithstanding, the letter has perturbed over a dozen states, whose representatives have publicly denied the commission’s request. One of the more noticeable was Mississippi State Secretary Delbert Hosemann’s statement as reported by the Clarion-Ledger, which told the Trump administration to take a swim. “I fought in federal court to protect Mississippi voters’ rights for their privacy and won,” he said. “They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi is a great state to launch from.”
Others took to Twitter to express their dissatisfaction with Kobach’s letter, especially when The Nation reporter Ari Berman’s tweet initially counting 18 states went viral. “You can add PA to that list,” wrote Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf. “We will not participate in this systematic effort to suppress the vote.”
Berman and other journalists keeping track updated their counts throughout the afternoon and evening on Friday. According to CNN, at least 27 states — via official statements or social media posts made by government officials — had “expressed reservations or legal barriers to turning over all of the requested information.” Those joining in the fray were largely concerned with possible inclusion of social security information in the voter details that could feasibly be collected by the commission.
Interestingly, as both CNN and the Huffington Post point out, Kobach sent the letter to all 50 states ahead of the commission’s first official meeting, which is scheduled for July 19th in Washington D.C. White House spokesperson Marc Lotter said “[t]here was no objections raised in the organizational call to asking for this information and beginning the fact-finding process,” and that it’s nothing more than the group’s “requesting public information” per the executive order Trump signed in May.