Feds ask states not to send over controversial voter roll information until court settles suit

Feds ask states not to send over controversial voter roll information until court settles suit
Posted at 3:58 PM, Jul 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-10 17:58:36-04

DENVER – There’s a chance that Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams won’t be sending over Colorado voter roll information on Friday, as the Election Integrity Commission on Monday asked Williams and other secretaries of state not to send the information over until a judge settles a court case over the commission’s intentions.

Last week, the Electronic Privacy Information Center was among several organizations that sued in federal court seeking to block the commission’s quest to gather voter data from each state in the U.S.

The organization sought an injunction against the commission’s collection, saying it did not perform a required privacy impact assessment on how or why the collection of the data would be necessary, and arguing that the commission has sidestepped several laws related to privacy, due process and public records laws by making its request.

It asked the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia to halt all collection by the commission and to delete any data it had already received.

The commission, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, as well as vice chair Kris Kobach, Vice President Mike Pence, the Executive Office of the President, General Services Administration and Department of Defense are all named as defendants in the suit.

On Monday, Kobach filed a letter in the court asking secretaries of state not to submit any data until a judge rules on the suit.

The letter was attached to a response motion in which Kobach also said that the commission would no longer be using the Department of Defense’s Safe Access File Exchange site for states to send over the voter roll info, but would instead be using a repurposed existing system “that regularly accepts personally identifiable information through a secure, encrypted computer application within the White House Information Technology enterprise.

In the letter, Kobach told the court that he anticipated that re-purposed system would be ready to use by 4 p.m. Mountain Time Monday.

Monday’s filing also said that Arkansas had already sent its data over and that it would be deleted from the site.

Last week, Williams again reiterated that he would only send the commission what was allowable under state law: a voter’s full name, address, party affiliation and date the person registered, phone number, gender identity, birth year, and information about if a person has voted in prior elections.

That information is already publicly available to anyone who requests it and pays a fee, though the state is expected to waive the fee for the commission, as it typically does for government entities.

But Williams won’t be sending over any part of a voter’s Social Security number or a voter’s full birthdate, two things the commission requested but won’t be getting from Colorado.

The commission’s true motives behind the request have been the subject of much scrutiny across the country, as it was only formed after President Trump made yet-unproven and still-dubious claims that “millions” of people voted illegally in last year’s election—a claim Williams, who is a Republican, has repeatedly debunked in regards to Colorado.

But Kobach’s history and the fact that the commission was only created after the president’s dubious, and possibly false, claims that millions were casting illegal votes haven’t quelled many people’s opinions that the commission is engaging in voter intimidation or suppression tactics by simply making such requests in the first place.

Williams was asked at a news conference last Wednesday if he had concerns about the true motives of the commission.

“Are there some on the commission who have a particular thing they are more concerned about than others? I suspect that’s probably true,” Williams said. “But again, Colorado’s response is based on the requirements of Colorado law and not the assessment of the purity of motives of anybody.”

And those concerns were only exacerbated on Friday, when several counties in the Denver metro area told Denver7 that hundreds of people had withdrawn their voter registrations because of the request.

Williams was named treasurer of the National Association of Secretaries of State over the weekend at a summer conference in Indianapolis that Kobach, who is also the Kansas secretary of state, did not attend.

His spokeswoman, Lynn Bartels, said the office would be complying with the request to delay.