Colorado secretary of state will send voter roll info allowable under state law to feds

Posted at 10:41 AM, Jul 05, 2017

DENVER – Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams held a news conference Wednesday morning to further address the voter roll information requested by President Donald Trump’s commission on election fraud.

Last week, the vice chair of the Election Integrity Commission, Kris Kobach, sent a letter to Williams and all other secretaries of state requesting the full name, address, date of birth, affiliated political party, last four Social Security number digits and voting history since 2006 of every voter in the state and country.

The commission on which Kobach serves as vice chair was created earlier this year after Trump made his false claim that several million people voted illegally in last year’s election. Kobach, the former Kansas secretary of state, has also in the past been scrutinized and even fined over voter-related issues in that state.

Williams, a Republican, and some other secretaries of state said they would only provide to the commission what is required to be released in their respective states.

"We will provide publicly available information on the voter file, which is all they have asked for," Williams said last week of the voter-roll files in response to requests for comment about the letter.

In Colorado, 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 is available to the public and is required to be released by the secretary of state.

But a voter’s Social Security number, driver’s license number, full date of birth and email address are not considered part of the information that is public record.

Uproar about the commission’s request has grown over the weekend and July 4 holiday, as handfuls of secretaries of state—including some Republicans—have publicly stood up to the request, saying it is nothing more than an effort by the administration to suppress voters.

Watch Williams' full news conference embedded in the player below, and read on for more.

Williams says he's following state law: "I swore an oath to do that."

On Wednesday, Williams reiterated that he was only adhering to state law in complying with the portion of the request Colorado can comply with.

“Colorado law does not permit the secretary of state, county election officials or anyone else to say, ‘I’m only going to give it to the people I like,’ or, ‘I’m only going to give it to my friends,’ or, ‘I’m only going to give it to the people in my party.’ That is not a provision of Colorado law, nor do you want to put such a provision in place where only favored people can receive that information,” Williams said.

He added that he and the state’s county clerks “are not in the business of picking winners and losers in terms of who can get information.”

He said that some have called his office asking how to be removed from Colorado’s voter rolls, and that there were “a few” who had asked him to violate Colorado law.

“We will not do that. We will follow the law as it’s written,” Williams said. “Some of them have at time included threats with that. That is not the behavior of what I think are most Coloradans.”

When reporters at the news conference asked about the motives behind the commission, which was established after the president’s claims there were millions of illegal votes cast last year, Williams again stuck to the message that he was following state law and hopeful the commission was true in its statements that the motives behind the commission is to address challenges involving elections.

“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 he stuck to his message that he’s repeated several times since then-candidate Trump claimed there was widespread voter fraud: “I will tell you all what I have said repeatedly: I have not seen the evidence in Colorado of vote fraud on the scale that has been reference in some reports, tweets, or other things.”

Williams also noted that should anyone want to have their voter information made private in Colorado, they can enroll in the voter confidentiality program or Address Confidentiality Program, which provide a substitute address for official documents for victims of domestic violence, sexual offenses, and stalking. It may also be available to some law enforcement officers.

It's also possible to de-register to vote, though the Denver Elections Division advises against doing so.

But enrollees have to testify under oath that they meet one of the criteria for having their information made confidential.

Williams also noted that it would not be easy for people to remove voters from rolls, as some in other states have suggested.

“There’s no ability for anyone to simply remove people stealthily from the voting rolls under Colorado law,” Williams said. “You have to identify why you were challenging a particular voter and the basis for that particular challenge, and it’s under oath, and the voter gets a chance to respond to that.”

He says he hopes Colorado’s responses to the commission are helpful in making election processes better across the country.

“I think any time there is a presidential commission…my intent is to cooperate and try and guide them to make decisions that will be better for Coloradans,” Williams said, adding that he personally knows the four secretaries of state on the commission and respects several people serving on it, including Maine’s Secretary of State, Matthew Dunlap, a Democrat.

Williams will be sending the information allowed to be released under state law by the 8a.m., July 14 deadline, he said.

“I think one of the things that’s important for folks to do is try to provide influence, and provide direction and guidance as to where we think they can make things better, and that’s what Colorado’s letter is going to do when it’s sent on July 14.” 

But U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., said the commission's request "raises serious privacy concerns" and called it a "taxpayer-funded fishing expedition" in a statement to Denver7, adding that he believes the request "may discourage participation in the electoral process."

"Instead of this taxpayer-funded fishing expedition, the president should look to Colorado for ways we can encourage participation in our elections, such as increasing options for early voting and mail-in ballots," Bennet said. "And under no circumstances should this commission distract from the real threat to our democracy: Russian interference in our elections. President Trump should do more to hold Russia accountable and safeguard our democracy."