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State Officials Of Both Parties Reject Requests For Voters' Identification Details

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, seen earlier this month, says he is among the state officials who isn't able to provide all the voter identification details the national commission he vice-chairs is seeking.
John Hanna AP
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, seen earlier this month, says he is among the state officials who isn't able to provide all the voter identification details the national commission he vice-chairs is seeking.

State Officials Of Both Parties Reject Requests For Voters' Identification Details
State Officials Of Both Parties Reject Requests For Voters' Identification Details GUEST: Alex Padilla, California Secretary of State

The count is up to 30 the number of states is that they would not fully comply with the man's from the President's advisory commission on election integrity. Last week the commission asked all 50 states to provide it with the names and party affiliations, addresses and voting history of all voters. Republican secretaries the state web objected say they're concerned about sensitive information getting in the hands of federal officials and Democrats including California Secretary of State. Catches secretary of state Kris Kobach who was vice chair defended the request. If the state won't provide publicly available information, we have to ask the question why not? What are they trying to hide? If they don't want the presidential advisory commission to study the state voter rolls? I spoke with Alex Padilla about why he is refusing to share any requested data with the Trump administration. Welcome to the program. Thank you. Why are you refusing to share voter information with this bipartisan commission? Let's this request for the personal information of voters in the proper context. We have President Trump who after the November election was making these false allegations of massive voter fraud. We invited him to share any evidence that he had to that effect because I'm happy to investigate and they've produced nothing. There is no evidence that the investigations in the studies that are out there on voter fraud show that it is rare and always very isolated. So he feels compelled to create a commission that has predetermined outcomes. Not just the vice president but cochair of the commission has a long history of discriminatory policies anti-immigrant policies and voter suppression. They are the ones that are in charge of this commission that before they even meet for the first time is issuing a unprecedented request to personal information of all voters in America not just first names and last names, but names, Social Security number, voter and -- voting history and on and on. I personally don't have confidence that they will manage the information appropriately. Plus it is an unlawful request. I don't feel compelled to put people at risk and their personal data at risk for this commission that is nothing but a distraction from the true issue which is further investigating and responding to Russian interference with elections. What is unlawful about this request? Is in this publicly available voter information question mark Some is public information. In California, there is certain criteria for what part of this information can be shared publicly and for what purposes. Political campaigns for example have access to some of that voter information for purposes of reaching out to voters, conducting campaigns, etc. It is available for the academic research but there is no precedent for compiling all the information that is being compiled for one repository making it publicly available at the federal level. We can they compel you to share this information to Mark At this point, I don't believe so. This is not a subpoena for information. This is simply a request for information so I think the commission has a lot of questions to answer before they can count on the participation. Just a little off-topic here during Senate hearings into Russia's efforts to hack the 2016 election, we heard that Russia tried to get into the systems of 21 states. Can you share whether that includes California Russian Mark I can assure you that both prior to last November and since last November there has been numerous reviews and assessments and audits and we have found zero irregular activity in the elections. Nothing to let us to believe that California was compromised in any way shape or form. So we feel good about the 2016 elections. Former FBI director James Comey in his testimony to the Senate said that the Russians came in the Russians are going to keep coming. We can't rest assured that we are okay in the 2016 cycle. We have to continuously improve and prepare for future election cycles. A lot of that will be contingent upon not just technology and recommendations from Homeland security but real-time information sharing, which is it happening yet. You are confident that Russia did not hack the 2016 election in California. Do you have information that Russia tried to get into California systems? Is California one of the 21 states that Russia try to hack question mark We don't believe we are on that list of 21 states, but I have to operate as if we are. California is the most populous state in the nation with the largest economy of any state in the nation whether it is for voting purposes or anything else, it is a hackers big prize. We have to constantly be vigilant and we are. I can assure you that both before election, during election and after election to protect and defend the integrity of the vote. The national Association of secretaries of State is having their annual summer conference this week. Will you be attending and what is your goal in terms of coordinating a response to this letter? I am attending and look forward to it this next weekend. Is supposed to be the place where we can come together as professionals and exchange of best practices and learn from when another and have sort of the -- one another and have -- unfortunately we've had a couple of very uncomfortable debates in recent months. The first convening of Secretary of State's post-November's election and post Donald Trump's accusations of voter fraud we failed to come together on a bipartisan basis to push back on the president's allegations. They've all done individually in their home states but we couldn't bring it together as a group. That was disappointing. When we come together this weekend, agenda item one, two, and three how we professionals based on policies, Cybersecurity, and voting rights? The commission seems to have the conclusions in place before they've even met. I've been speaking with Alex Padilla. Thank you so much. Thank you very much. More to come I am sure. Coming up border wall prototypes are set to be completed in Otay Mesa in September. It is 12:20 PM and you are listening to KPBS Midday Edition.

More than a dozen states said Friday that they would not, or could not, give a White House commission looking into voter fraud detailed voter registration data as requested.

The request came in a letter Wednesday to all 50 states from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is vice chair of the new Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. President Trump established the commission after he alleged, without providing evidence, that as many as five million people voted illegally last November. The panel — headed by Vice President Mike Pence — has been charged with looking into voting problems and recommending ways to improve public confidence in elections.

The letter asks each state to send the panel all publicly available voter registration information by July 14, including the names, addresses, birth dates, partial Social Security numbers, party affiliation, felon status and other data for every registered voter in the country.

Several states said they would not comply because of concerns about the panel's motives and how the information would be used.

"New York refuses to perpetuate the myth voter fraud played a role in our election," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. "We will not be complying with this request and I encourage the Election Commission to work on issues of vital importance to voters, including ballot access, rather than focus on debunked theories of voter fraud."

In an interview with NPR's All Things Considered host Ari Shapiro, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said she too would not comply because of her concerns about how the data would be secured.

"I'm not going to risk sensitive information for 3.2 million Kentuckians getting in the wrong hands, into the public domain and possibly for the wrong reasons, to keep people away from the ballot box," she told Shapiro.

Grimes and other Democrats say they worry that the commission's findings will be used to legitimize efforts by Kobach and others to enact strict ID and other voter requirements around the country.

In response, Kobach told NPR's Shapiro that the commission was requesting the information so that it could "understand issues of voter registration fraud. ... If you don't have the voter rolls, the commission really will have a hard time studying problems of voter registration." Kobach said that the panel was only requesting data that "any person on the street can walk into a county election office and get. It's not sensitive information at all," a characterization many election officials dispute.

Kobach said the panel would like to compare the state rolls against federal Social Security Administration and citizenship databases to see if there are those on the rolls who have died or are non-citizens, and if anyone voted in their names.

"We have lots of people making claims on both sides about fraudulent voting in the name of dead people," he said. "Well, let's just use the federal databases and find out how big a problem it is."

Many experts say the problem with comparing such databases is that it often leads to mismatches because of inaccuracies or differences in how names are listed. Some voting rights groups worry that it could lead to legitimate voters being purged from the rolls, even though Kobach noted that the federal panel would have no authority to do that.

In his statement announcing refusal to comply with the request, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, a Democrat, noted that Kobach has a history of pushing tough voter requirements, which opponents say can hurt minority voters. "His role as vice chair is proof that the ultimate goal of the commission is to enact policies that will result in the disenfranchisement of American citizens," Padilla said.

Kobach said he found such arguments "bizarre." He acknowledged, however, that the panel does not have the authority to force states to comply with the request. "It's simply an ask," he told NPR.

While the strongest opposition has come from Democrats so far, several Republican secretaries of state, including Tennessee's Tre Hargett, said they would be unable to comply because of state restrictions on sharing sensitive data. "Tennessee state law does not allow my office to release the voter information requested to the federal commission," Hargett said in a statement.

Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, also a Republican, said he had yet to receive the commission's request but that his reply to such a request would be: "They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi is a great State to launch from." He cited the need to protect the privacy of state citizens "by conducting our own electoral processes."

Ohio's Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted also said that confidential state information would not be shared with the commission. "We do not want federal intervention in our state's right and responsibility to conduct elections," he added in a statement.

Wisconsin's administrator of elections, Michael Haas, said that his state's voter registration data is available, but for a fee of $12,500.

Even one of the Democratic members of the commission, Maine's Democratic Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, said he was reviewing Kobach's request to see if the state can comply. Under Maine law, recipients of state voter data are not allowed to share it or make it public, but Kobach's letter says anything sent to the White House panel will be available to the public.

And in a bizarre twist Friday afternoon, Kobach revealed in an interview with the Kansas City Star that even he wouldn't be providing the panel with all the information requested. He said his state will not be turning over Social Security numbers at this time. "In Kansas, the Social Security number is not publicly available," he told the paper.

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