II. Federal-State Update
Late last week, the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity issued a new letter to all 50 states and the District seeking the voting data of every registered voter.
In the letter, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), who is vice chair of the commission, emphasized the importance of privacy of the voter data.
“Individuals’ voter registration records will be kept confidential and secure throughout the duration of the commission’s existence,” Kobach wrote in the letters to state officials. “Once the commission’s analysis is complete, the commission will dispose of the data as permitted by federal law.”
In the letter, Kobach also said that the only information the commission would make public are “statistical conclusions drawn from the data” and other general observations.
States have responded to the new request in a variety of ways.
This week, U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth denied an emergency motion by Common Cause to stop the collection of data. The suit alleged that the request for certain data—voting history and party affiliation—violates a law that prohibits the government from gathering information about how Americans exercise their first amendment rights.
Also this week, Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) have written a letter to the White House counsel asking whether the Trump Administration will pay for or provide credit monitoring services for the citizens whose personal information was divulged when the White House released 112 pages of emails about the election commission.
Idaho: The Idaho Democratic Party has said that it will not sue the state in order to stop the release of voter data. The party had sued Secretary of State Lawerence Denney following the first request for data seeking to keep the information private.
New Hampshire: A legal challenge brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire against Secretary of State Bill Gardner to stop the release of the state’s voter data to the presidential commission will have an August 7 hearing.
Oregon: Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richards has issued a revised, more limited policy on public disclosure of information from voter rolls. Under the new policy, the secretary of state’s office will not release voters’ dates of birth or phone number, something the office had previously done. “The Legislature has enacted laws that require statewide voter lists to be publicly available, and this serves the critical public policy interest of ensuring transparency and accountability in the conduct of elections,” Richardson said in a statement. “I encourage the Legislature to comprehensively review the statutes governing publicly available voter information in the 2018 session; this new private information policy will serve as a stopgap until the legislature decides to update the law.”
Utah: On behalf of groups of concerned voters, the League of United Latin American Citizens of Utah (LULAC) and the League of Women Voters of Utah (LWV) have filed suit against Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox in an effort to prevent the release of voter data to the election commission. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the lawsuit argues that if the database were made public, the elections chief would be unable to guarantee that the information would be used legally because someone could request the information directly from the commission rather than from the state. Therefore, private firms could use the information however they saw fit, the lawsuit states.
Washington: The State of Washington has responded to the U.S. Department of Justice’s inquiry as to how the state purges the rolls of “ineligible voters”. In her four-page response to the DOJ, Director of Elections Lori Augino says the state routinely compares its voter registration database to lists of deaths and felony convictions. And the state looks for duplicates every night. Augino said the bottom line is Washington has “an outstanding and consistent track record of maintaining an accurate list of registered voters while simultaneously ensuring that valid voters are not improperly purged from this list.”