Trump Administration Withdraws Request for Voter Records… Temporarily?

Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams issued the following press release at the end of June, in response to a request from the Trump administration for Colorado voter records:

Secretary Williams’ response to request for public voter files

DENVER, June, 29, 2017 — Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams said today that his office will release voter information that is public under state law to a presidential election commission that asked for “publicly-available roll data,” but it will withhold data that is confidential.

Williams received a letter on Wednesday from the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity signed by vice chairman Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state. The commission was created by President Donald Trump in 2017. The commission contacted secretaries of state and election officials nationally for publicly-available election information from their states to help the commission “fully analyze vulnerabilities and issues related to voter registration and voting.” He also asked for publicly available voter histories, overseas voter histories and such. (The letter is attached to this release.)

“We will provide publicly available information on the voter file, which is all they have asked for,” Williams said.

State law requires the office to provide a copy of the voter registration list upon request. The publicly available list includes the full name, address, year of birth, political party and vote history of persons registered to vote in the state. It does not contain personally identifiable information such as Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, or full dates of birth — and that information will be withheld from the commission.

The commission also sought the ‘views and recommendations’ from secretaries of state across the political spectrum on seven specific issues, including whether they have evidence of voter fraud or registration fraud in their state, how the commission can support election administrators with regard to information technology security and vulnerabilities, and how voters can be protected from intimidation or disenfranchisement.

“We are very glad they are asking for information before making decisions,” Williams said. “I wish more federal agencies would ask folks for their opinion and for information before they made decisions.”

Elections in the U.S. are traditionally coordinated and regulated by individual state governments. The attempt by the Trump administration to insert the federal government’s nose into state-run elections has generated at least one lawsuit, and considerable public criticism.

On July 10, Secretary Williams released this press release:

Presidential commission asks states to postpone sending voter data

DENVER, July 10, 2017 — Today Secretary of State Wayne Williams and other election officials across the nation received the following email from the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity:

Dear Election Official,

As you may know, the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a complaint seeking a Temporary Restraining Order (“TRO”) in connection with the June 28, 2017 letter sent by Vice Chair Kris Kobach requesting publicly-available voter data.

(Click here to view Electronic Privacy Information Center v. Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.)

Until the Judge rules on the TRO, we request that you hold on submitting any data. We will follow up with you with further instructions once the Judge issues her ruling.

In light of this new request, Secretary Williams will await further communication before releasing any data.

According to recent news reports, thousands of Colorado voters have removed themselves from the voter registration system in response to the actions of the Trump administration, presumably out of concerns about their personal privacy.

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Bill Hudson

Bill Hudson founded the Pagosa Daily Post in 2004 in hopes of making a decent living writing about local politics. The hope remains.